P. J. Casebolt
Paden City, West Virginia
Several years ago, a fellow preacher told me of an incident in which he had been involved. He went to preach for a rural congregation one Lord's day, and while there he preached that an individual did n o t need to know why he w a s being baptized, only that the Lord had commanded it. The preacher could not understand why the brethren "took him to task" for this statement.
First, I told him that I thought the brethren had done right. Then, I asked him how a person could know that Christ had commanded baptism without knowing the purpose of baptism, since the same passage (or passages) of Scripture which taught one fact also taught the other. (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38.) He said he hadn't thought much about that. Next, I asked him where he received his theory, and he replied that while in college his professor (also a brother in Christ and a preacher) had taught it in a Bible class.
Recently, from the same area where this young preacher attended college, the theory has been advanced that people are not saved by "a plan" but rather by "a man." Or, to put it another way, we should preach Jesus (the man) and quit preaching repentance and baptism (the plan). Now, I understand why the young preacher preached what he did. He had preached his version (as he understood it) of "the man and the plan" theory.
Actually, the idea that we are saved by the man (Jesus) and not by a plan (obedience to specific commands) is just another version of salvation by "faith only." If we have faith in Christ, we will be moved to obey his commands. (Lk. 6:46; Jno. 14:15, 23.) Also, if we are to obey commands from the heart, we must have faith in the one who gave the commands.
We always seem to go back to Acts 2, and that is good, for "repentance and remission of sins" (the plan) was to be preached in Christ's name (the man) beginning at Jerusalem (Lk. 6:46-49). Here we have apostolic guidance in what it takes to save people. Let us see what happened.
First, we are told that the apostles received the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-2-), and Jesus had already promised them that he (the Spirit) would guide them into all truth (Jno. 16: 13). Next, Peter preached Christ and him crucified (the man) by declaring that God had raised the crucified Christ to sit on David's throne (w. 22-36). These facts caused the people to ask: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (v. 37.) It was then that Peter gave the plan: "Repent, and be baptized . . ." (v. 38.) Three thousand who believed in the man Jesus obeyed the plan. (v. 41.) Then they continued in the plan that would assure them continued favor in the Lord's eyes. (v. 42.)
Evidently, the Lord thought this was the way the gospel should be preached and obeyed, for he endorsed (bound, Mt. 16:19) this procedure by adding to the church those who were being saved. (v. 47.) If preachers preach anything other than that preached by the apostles, they will be "accursed" (Gal. 1:8,9). If people refuse to obey the gospel preached by the apostles, they will be lost (2 Thess. 2:7-9). I would rather hear a man call me a "legalist" because I obey the letter of the law than to hear Christ say: "Depart." l would rather abide in the doctrine of Christ and have the praise of God, than to transgress the doctrine of Christ and have the praise of men (2 Jno. 9-11; Jno. 12:42,43). I'm sure that you would too.