Some people fail to obey God because they are misinformed or uninformed. They simply do not know what God wants them to do. Paul met 12 disciples in Ephesus that he thought knew the truth. But it did not take long for him to realize they were not Christians.
[W]hile Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: …he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied (Acts 19:1-6 ASV).
What They Knew vs. What They Didn’t Know
They knew John the Baptist was a messenger of God and that if one rejects the messenger of God, he rejects God Himself (Luke 7:29-30). They also knew that their water baptism was “unto the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4 ASV; Acts 2). After hearing Paul and knowing he was a messenger of God, they obeyed the truth as they learned it, being immersed “unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38 ASV; 19:5). They did not argue with Paul.
They knew the Messiah was coming for that was the message of John (Acts 19:4). However, they did not know the Messiah had already come, was crucified, buried, raised from the dead, ascended to the Father, and was being preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the utter most parts of the world. This means they did not know of Christ’s authority (Mark 16:15-16) or of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20) or of salvation “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19 ASV). All disciples now look for Jesus to come again.
Since the 12 did not know of salvation “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19 ASV), they did not know the Spirit was given. How was the Spirit given? Note the contrast of repeated passages in the Old Testament and in the days of Jesus where John and Jesus clearly promised the miraculous giving of the Spirit (Matt. 3:11; John 7:37-39 cf 16:7ff, 14:26, 15:26-27; Acts 1:4-5, 8). Then note the massive number of passages which clearly depict the fulfillment of the promise of the miraculous (Acts 2, 8, 10, 11, 19; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). Today, we have the benefit of the great work accomplished by the Spirit through brethren in the first century: The mature church and the wholeness of the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:8-16).
The Danger of Not Knowing
Though one may be sincere, there is still a danger in not knowing. John’s baptism was no longer valid. Therefore, the Ephesian disciples were still in their sins, having submitted to an invalid baptism, even though, at the time, they were seeking to obey God.
We are warned over and over against ignorance (Hosea 4:6; Jer. 4:22, 8:7, 2 Pet. 3:15-18). Some folks lacked knowledge in the sense that they knew the truth but followed error. The foolish Galatians were following Judaizers (Gal. 3:1). During Jesus’ sojourn on earth, the religious leaders were blindly misleading the spiritually blind (Matt. 22:29, 15:13-14; John 7:17, 17:17).
Too Many are Dangerously Ignorant of What God Commands to Become a Christian
Like the 12 at Ephesus, they have obeyed some religious set of rules, but not God’s (Acts 19). Many follow blind guides as to the proper subjects of water baptism. Only the penitent may be immersed for the remission of sins. Those who have decided to remain in their sin will simply be getting wet (Acts 2:38, 17:30, 19:19; Rom. 6:1-4).
Many follow blind guides and sprinkle infants. Infants do not need to be saved. They are safe, though the denominational world teaches that they are born guilty of Adam’s sin. This is simply not true (Eccl. 7:29). Believers—not infants—are the proper subjects of baptism in the name of the Lord (Mark 16:16). Lack of faith would have hindered Philip from immersing the Eunuch (Acts 8:36-37). However, he confessed his faith and was baptized into Christ.
Many follow blind guides and baptize those they call “Christians” or the saved. Obviously, such baptisms are not for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:19ff), since, to the blind, the person being baptized is already saved.
Many follow blind guides and baptize in a manner that was never taught by the Lord’s messengers. They sprinkle instead of immerse, being totally ignorant of the mode of water baptism. If sprinkling is the Lord’s way of baptizing, then why was John “baptizing in Enon near to Salim, because there was much water there” (John 3:23 ASV)? He could have gotten a bowl of water out of any kitchen. He didn’t because God wants the reader to understand that baptism is an immersion. It is a burial (Rom. 6:3-4). Both the one being immersed and the immersed must go “down into the water” (Acts 8:38-39).
For the sake of numbers and increased followers, spiritual blindness continues today. On May 9, 2005, the Baptist Press interviewed Max Lucado. Mr. Lucado expressed several false doctrines but we restrict our quotes to his error on baptism. He said, “We never taught—the buzz-phrase is ‘baptismal regeneration,’ where you go into the baptistery lost and come out saved. We never taught that. Now, I’m not saying there were not people in our church who believed that.”
The following exchange between Mr. Lucado and the Baptist Press underscores Lucado’s obvious error concerning baptism:
Baptist Press: You preached a sermon in the mid ’90s about baptism. What led you to preach that? (The sermon, available on the church’s website, explained Lucado’s denomination’s understanding of the role of baptism.)
Lucado: I think our church just felt like we needed to have a clearer stand. There are those who have taught that baptism is necessary for salvation, as if baptism adds to the finished work of Christ. We have felt that baptism is necessary for obedience, but that baptism doesn’t add to what Christ does for us in the cross, and doesn’t add to what a person receives by faith.
Lucado tells readers why he changed doctrine. It was for numbers’ sake:
I think I can say I have changed my position…When we were in Brazil, our little church wouldn’t grow. We thought, ‘Why won’t it grow?’ [after a new study, RC] Then, the church had its own mini-revival. It was a wonderful experience for me. I can say that in my own life, I have gone through a personal discovery of grace.
Beware of blind guides who, for numbers’ sake, preach the so-called “gospel.” Our souls depend upon being alert and knowing heaven’s will in all spiritual matters.
We pray that your ending will not be a great tragedy like the young prophet who failed to maintain his knowledge of what God commanded (1 Kings 13). Make things right; do things right; then the end will be right. Like the Ephesians, be immersed unto the remission of sins (Acts 19).