I beg the indulgence of readers who are not associated with Baptist churches or Churches of Christ, as we look in three gracEmails at those two groups of Christians, both particularly populous and highly competitive throughout the southern United States.
* * *
In the light of the gospel, we must say that both Baptists and Church of Christ people have often missed the real point by focusing on something we do, rather than focusing on what God had done for us in Jesus Christ. Baptists have often talked as though the saving event occurs when we believe (“accept Christ”), while Church of Christ people have talked as though the saving event occurs when we are baptized (“obey the gospel”).
Both groups are right in what they require, but both are wrong in thinking that our human activity constitutes the saving event. The saving activity which set sinners right with God happened almost 2,000 years ago, in the perfect doing and dying of Jesus Christ our representative. It does not occur when we believe or when we are baptized, though we can only trust Jesus for his salvation, a trust which he commanded us to express in baptism. Jesus died because of our transgressions and he was raised because of our justification (Rom.4:25). He reconciled us to God in his fleshly body on the cross (Col. 1:19-22). He made atonement for sin, once for all, and he perfected forever those for whom he died (Heb. 1:3; 10:12-14).
Jesus commanded his followers to preach the gospel and to baptize believers. Baptists have done very well in preaching the gospel, but sometimes they have been careless about promptly baptizing those who believe, and in relating that baptism to the gospel. Church of Christ folk have been diligent to baptize everyone who believes, but they have often gotten the cart before the horse by passing lightly over the gospel, or by confusing the gospel with the believer’s response to it. By God’s grace, both groups are learning to do better all that Jesus commanded in the Great Commission. May they also learn to hold up each other’s hands as brothers and sisters as they do so.