Answering Common Sense Questions – #11

In the past several blogs I have been answering questions from an article entitled “Common Sense Questions A Church Of Christ Preacher Cannot Answer” written by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church.   This week I will be examining question number eleven on Mr. Martin’s list.

The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

Because of the length of this question I will break it down and respond to one or two sentences at a time.

The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder.

Mr. Martin’s allegation here is absolutely false and I hope that he simply is ignorant of what the churches of Christ believe rather than deliberatly making false accusations.  We believe it is the knowledge and intent of the person that is submitting to baptism that matters, not the one performing the baptism.  In fact, because I had never heard of anyone in the churches of Christ making that claim, I did a web search for even one congregation, preacher, or member who believes what Mr. Martin alledges and was unable to locate even a single one. 

Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven?

There are many passages that teach that baptism is required for salvation.  Jesus taught that one must be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).  The apostle Peter believed that baptism was for the remission of sins and now saves us (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21).  In his epistle to the Romans Paul taught that baptism frees one from sin (Romans 6:3-7 & 17-18).   On the road to Damascus Jesus appears to Paul and informs him of who he is and it is obvious that Paul believes because he asks the question “Lord, what should I do?” (Acts 22:8) thus acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and his williness to obey.  However, we see that when Paul went on to Damascus and Ananias came to Paul that Paul was still in his sins and Ananias told him to arise and be baptized to wash those sins away (Acts 22:16).  The Bible is amply clear that baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven.

Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously!

Here Mr. Martin makes an assertion with absolutely no proof to back up his claim.  On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter commanded those present to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  According to Mr. Martin the phrase “for the remission of sins” here means because sins were forgiven previously.  Reading it Mr. Martin’s way Peter is saying repent and be baptize in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins were forgiven. This presents a serious problem in that the phrase “for remission of sins” applies equally to repentance and baptism, both are “for the remission of sins”.  Thus if “for the remission of sins” is speaking of sins previously forgiven then obviously repentance occurs after salvation.  However, Jesus said that the righteous, those who have been saved, do not need repentance but rather sinners (Mark 2:17).  Thus in  Acts 2:38 the phrase “for the remission of sins” cannot possibly refer to sins already forgiven.  Since there is at least one instance of the phrase “for the remission of sins” cannot possibly be speaking of the fact of sins previously forgiven then Mr. Martin’s claim is false.

The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism?

Note that here Mr. Martin acknowledges that forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance and repentance does not occur because of already remitted sins again proving that in Acts 2:38 the phrase “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” cannot possibly be referring to previously forgiven sin.  In Matthew 3:11 neither says that water baptism is or is not for the remission of sins.  While Luke 24:47 omits baptism that does not mean that baptism is not required for remission of sins. This passage doesn’t mention faith either but I’m sure Mr. Martin would not use that to make an argument that faith is unnecessary. Mr. Martin is correct that the Bible plainly teaches that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance and faith and he provides plenty of passages which teach that both are necessary for salvation.  However, Mr. Martin simply asserts that there are no passages that say the same thing about baptism even though that is patently false. There are many passages that condition forgiveness of sins upon baptism (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7, 1 Peter 3:21).

When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood.

Notice that Mr. Martin simply asserts that which he is trying to prove.  He has just claimed that the phrase “for the remisson of sins” NEVER means “in order to obtain remission of sins”.  Thus he says this verse has to mean Jesus blood was shed because sins had already been forgiven.  It only has to mean that if Mr. Martins claim is true but Mr. Martin has not offered one shred of proof that it is and we have in fact seen that it is absolutely false.  However, lets examine his claim about this particular passage.  Paul in his epistle to the Romans taught that we are justified, i.e. forgiven of our sins, by the blood of Jesus.  John taught that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses our sin (1 John 1:7).  Both of these inspired writers claim, contrary to what Mr. Martin says here, cleansing of sins is the result of Christ shedding his blood not the other way around. 

How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense?

Again Mr. Martin repeats his claim without having done anything whatsoever to prove it.  We have already seen that in both Matthew 26:28 and in Acts 2:38 that the phrase “for the remission of sins” does mean “in order to obtain remission of sins”.  So the claim that the phrase is never used in that sense is completely false.

In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary.

Mr. Martin seems not to realize that the forgiveness recieved in the Old Testament is not the same as the forgiveness obtained in the New Testament by the blood of Christ but was a merely a shadow of that perfect forgiveness by Christs shed blood (Hebrews 10:1-4). When Christ came he shed his blood in order to obtain the true forgiveness that replaced temporary yearly forgiveness obtained through the sacrifices of the old law and permenantly removed those sins only temporarily covered by those sacrifices.

Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4).

Under the old law sins were covered by animal sacrifice which provided only a temporary forgiveness of sins which were remembered each year (Hebrews 10:1-4).  As this passage tells us the sacrifice of animals was a shadow of the perfect sacrifice to come and the forgivness obtained was a shadow of the true and permenan forgiveness in Christ.  Christ shed his blood in order to obtain the permenant forgiveness of sins not because it was already obtained.   Mr. Martin also misrepresents Exodus 34:7 here which does not say that forgiven sinners are not cleared of their guilt.  Lets take a look at the passage:

Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Notice that God visits, the Greek word here means avenges, the iniquity of the guilty that he does not clear upon their children.  So if Mr. Martin’s interpretation of this passage is correct then though these people were forgiven God still punished them and their children for those sins unto the third and fourth generation.  What God is telling us in this passage is that he is merciful and forgiving to those that turn to him and obey him but those who do not turn away from sin will not get away with their crimes but will suffer the concequences.

Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15).

Mr. Martin’s statement that those in the old testament were forgiven but not redeemed directly contradictions scripture.  More than once the psalmist David claimed that his soul had been redeemed (Psalms 31:5, Psalms 71:23). 

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43).

I agree with Mr. Martin that when Jesus said “It is finished” he was referring to the completion of God’s magnificent plan to bring salvation to mankind. I also agree that all sin past, present and future was permenantly paid for at that time by the shed blood of Christ.

In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded repentance and baptism for the same purpose.  If baptism is because their since were already forgiven then so repentance was commanded for the same reason.  Thus we see that Mr. Martin’s statement here is self contradicting as he puts baptism as being because of the remission of sins and repentance as being in order to obtain the remisson of sins.  He cannot have it both ways.  The clear teaching of this passage is that one must repent and be baptized in order to obtain remission of sin.

In the beginning of his article Mr. Martin accuses the church of Christ of having to turn to screwball theology in order to answer his questions. We see here, however, that it is Mr. Martin who has gone off the deep end of screwball theology when he is forced by his reasoning to claim that Jesus shed his blood because our sins were already forgiven.  We see that from the first statment to the last Mr. Martin is absolutely wrong regarding the phrase “for the remission of sins” and the purpose of baptism.

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