A preacher from my own faith heritage of Churches of Christ asks, “What about those who actually and deliberately give false directives, such as the evangelicals who deny that baptism is essential?”
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We should take care not to misrepresent other Christians in this matter. With the exception of Quakers (Society of Friends), Salvationists (The Salvation Army), and certain Pauline dispensationalists, all evangelicals of whom I know believe, teach and practice the Great Commission as Jesus himself gave it. They neither actually nor deliberately give “false directives,” and they certainly do not tell anyone not to be baptized. (I recognize that many Christians apply the water by either sprinkling or pouring it rather than by dipping the individual beneath it. I teach and practice immersion only, but I leave judgment in the matter to God.)
We should note carefully that Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and to baptize those who believe (Mark 16:15-16). Jesus did not command us to go preach “that baptism is essential.” As we in the Churches of Christ gradually learn the difference between these two messages, and as we more faithfully obey what Jesus actually said, we will also see more and more people requesting baptism. Too often, our preoccupation with baptism as “essential” has led literalistic and simple-minded people to trust their baptism for salvation rather than trusting in Christ alone — a conclusion which contradicts the New Testament and which flies directly in the face of the gospel.
We need to throw away many of our old debate notes and sermon outlines, forget some of our neat doctrinal systems, stop trying to prove we are better than other people, get on our knees before the crucified Lord and confess our sins and ask for mercy. Then we need to rise from our knees to tell a very lost world about the God who loved so much and the Savior who willingly died in our place. Only then will it be appropriate for our lips to form the word “baptize.” We are only sinners saved by grace, the same as all other Christians who meet under a wide variety of signboards.