Misrepresentations are deplorable, and in order that none occur herein, standard sources will be two in number, viz., (1) The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox, and (2) the Bible. Only the doctrines that are explicitly stated in the former to be items of Baptist faith and practice will be considered in the light of the latter. What others say and hearsay will not be considered.
Under the heading of “Church Ordinances” in the above mentioned Manual, the following quotation appears:
Baptism is not essential to salvation, for our churches utterly repudiate the dogma of baptismal regeneration; but it is essential to obedience; since Christ has commanded it. It is also essential to a public confession of Christ before the world, and to membership in the church which is his body. And no true lover of his Lord will refuse these acts of obedience and tokens of affection (p. 20, Note 8).
Make Obedience Non-Essential
“Baptism is not essential to salvation…but it is essential to obedience.” (ibid.) This is indisputable teaching that obedience is not essential to salvation. The meaning of essential is “important in the highest degree; indispensable” (Webster). According to Baptist doctrine, obedience is dispensable, and not important. But Hebrews 5:9 states that Christ is “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” Christ personally taught that to hear His teachings but to refuse to obey them was to build upon sand (Luke 6:46-49). Vengeance, punishment and eternal destruction will be rendered “to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8-9). Obedience is clearly seen as essential in the light of the Lord’s teaching. and disobedience provokes God’s wrath. But not so in Baptist doctrine. Here is the contradictory predicament simply stated: Commands are essential, and baptism is a command but it is not essential. How can a doctrine more glaringly contradict the Scriptures?
Make Commands of None Effect
In Matthew 15:9, Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees saying, “ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” In verse 9, He explained that they were “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” The doctrine of the Pharisees made God’s commandments of none effect by excusing men from the heavenly decrees. Baptist doctrine refuses to let it be otherwise and leave no doubt, for baptism is affirmed to be a commandment and is then deliberately made of none effect by excusing men from obedience thereto. In the stead of God’s commandments, which they make non-essential (of none effect) salvation is promised according to terms and conditions not known to the will of God. It is boldly stated in the Manual, “baptism is not essential (“of none effect”) to salvation…Christ has commanded it.” There is absolutely no difference between Baptists and Pharisees. The Pharisees made a commandment concerning honor to father and mother of none effect—non-essential! Baptists make a commandment concerning baptism of none effect—non-essential!
Confession of Christ Made Unnecessary
“It (baptism) is also essential to a public confession of Christ before the world” (Ibid.). But it isn’t necessary! If it isn’t necessary, but is essential to the confession of Christ, then it isn’t necessary to confess Christ. This is the only conclusion. However, Jesus promised only to confess in heaven those who confessed Him on earth (Matt. 10:32-33). If, on the other hand, the day comes when Baptists affirm the scriptural truth that confession is essential, they must admit the necessity of baptism, since “it is also essential to a public confession of Christ before the world.” Baptist doctrine is a refuge for those who rebelliously refuse to confess Christ, for you have to be baptized to publicly confess, and “our churches utterly repudiate the dogma.”
Body of Christ Made Non-Essential
“It (baptism) is also essential…to membership in the church which is His body.” This is the equivalent of saying that the body of Christ is non-essential, and the consequence of such doctrine is that Christ Himself is not essential. This is a hard statement, but it is an accurate and fair representation of the unfortunate predicament in which men find themselves when they begin to legislate against God’s laws by dubbing one command “essential” and another “non-essential.” They may easily repeat this case of unwittingly dubbing Christ Himself as “non-essential.” That this is such a case, and that the representation of the doctrine and its consequences is warranted, observe: “…Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body.” (Eph. 5:23b) “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25) Notice that the body—the church—is that of which Christ is the Saviour, and that He loved it enough to die for it. In giving Himself for the church, Christ bought her with His blood. (Acts 20:28) Now note the point: The church (body) was bought by the blood of Christ and He has promised to save the body (church).
This same blood, which bought the church, is the blood through which we have our redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7). Now this is not at all difficult to understand, for this blood-bought body is comprised of those individuals who have been baptized into Christ, and who were thus baptized into His death, or “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:3). To contact the blood of Christ is to benefit therefrom, and is to contact the blood of His death. Being cleansed or bought by His blood, the Lord adds to the body, the church, which is blood-bought. (Acts 2:41, 47) Blood-bought individuals constitute a blood-bought body; this is that of which Christ is the Saviour. Essential? It cost Christ His life and is the body (ekklesia—church, group) containing the saved and that which He has promised to save. It is as essential as salvation. But Baptist doctrine says “unnecessary” while a crimson flood flows unheeded and unhonored from His riven side—an unnecessary death (don’t have to contact it) for an unnecessary body (don’t have to be in it). Ridiculous in its mockery of Christ and unscriptural in its origin.
Promise Salvation Out Of Christ
The consequence! Verily, it demands that Christ Himself is unnecessary, for we are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). Now if baptism is not essential, then the blessings procured by baptism are likewise nonessential. Since man gets into Christ by baptism, it is not essential that he be in Christ. Such a doctrine is damnable. Note further the consequences: In Christ is redemption (Eph. 1:7), but redemption is non-essential for it is in Christ and baptism into (which is “non-essential”) is the only way one gets into Christ. Everything in Christ is thus non-essential forasmuch as a non-essential command is the only way to get into Christ. I had always understood the scriptures to teach that the really important things of life and eternity were in Christ, but according to Baptist doctrine the non-essentials are in Christ and salvation, an essential, is somewhere out of Christ. But then salvation just might be non-essential, for salvation and redemption are in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 7, 10) which is the non-essential place, and unless salvation is nonessential you cannot have the essential thing outside of the non-essential place. Confusing? It’s always confusing and hopeless to try reconciling a human doctrine with God’s word. Baptist doctrine again has floundered in the sea of unscripturalness and snagged upon the rocks and reefs of inconsistency. Such a doctrine has no defense and is helpless before the sword of the Spirit.
Provide Salvation Without Love
“And no true lover of his Lord will refuse these acts of obedience and tokens of affection” (ibid.) This statement is true, but when preceded by its accompanying Baptist doctrine, it rises as another ship-wrecking reef to the unsuspecting and uninformed Standard for Baptist Churches. Again observe the cardinal Baptist doctrine that affirms salvation before and even without scriptural baptism. But here comes the rub, “no true lover of his Lord will refuse…” However, one can refuse and go to heaven. Let’s get it straight and make it clear. You can refuse baptism and go to heaven, but you can’t refuse it and be a true lover of the Lord. Thus, you can go to heaven without being a true lover of the Lord. This makes room for both the rebellious and indolent believer, and to cry “Lord, Lord” equals Baptist salvation. But Jesus said that such would not “enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
Contradictions On Faith And Grace
We believe the Scriptures teach that the great gospel blessing which Christ secures to such as believe in Him is justification; that justification includes the pardon of sin, and the gift of eternal life on principles of righteousness; that it is bestowed, not in consideration of any works of righteousness which we have done, but solely through faith in Christ…and secures every other blessing needful for time and eternity.” (ibid. p. 62) “We believe the Scriptures teach that salvation of sinners is wholly of grace (ibid. p. 61).
On page 62, under the topic of Justification, and in the above quotation, note the expression “solely through faith in Christ.” Compare it to the quotation taken from the preceding page under the heading of The Way of Salvation: “We believe the Scriptures teach that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace.” Word definitions, though apparent in this instance, focus light on another example of the inability of the Baptist Standard Manual to agree with itself. Solely—“Singly; alone; without another…” Wholly— “Entirely; completely; perfectly. (2) Totally; fully; exclusively; altogether.” On the one hand, it is faith that saves or justifies “alone, and without another.” On the other hand, it is grace “entirely, exclusively, and altogether.” Both positions cannot be right. If the two work together—and they do (Eph. 2:8)—salvation is not through or by either “solely” or “wholly.” Neither statement is true, and each one is an unwitting testimony that the other is false.
How Faith And Grace Save
It is readily admitted, for it is true, that the Scriptures say, “for by grace are ye saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). But a misunderstanding of grace and faith, and how they save, is responsible for the unscriptural and contradictory position assumed in The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Hiscox.
Grace saves through a plan that is teachable. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us…” (Titus 2:11, 12a). God’s grace does not mysteriously spirit us from darkness to light and from doom to salvation, but instructs us to live soberly and godly in this present world. It is God’s unmerited favor (grace) that makes possible our redemption. By faith (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:1) the instruction of the Lord must be accepted. This does not mean or imply that by belief only all of Christ’s blessings have been procured. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys. In James the second chapter, the relationship between faith and works of obedience is clearly shown. Abraham, a man of unquestioned faith, is used as an example to show the absolute necessity of obedient works accompanying faith. Note verses 21 and 22: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” (Note: obedience to the thing commanded). “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was made perfect?” Without works faith is imperfect and incomplete, and is made perfect or complete by works. Now if faith is essential and vital to salvation—and it is—so is that which makes that faith perfect and complete. But listen to the inspired writer in verse 24: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” The Baptist Manual says “justification…solely through faith.” One says “faith solely (only),” but the other says, “not faith only (solely.” The two cannot be reconciled. There is no concord between Baptist doctrine and the Gospel of Christ. To accept one is to refuse the other.
Knowing the facts of the matter, the only course that honesty and sincerity can pursue, is to set aside and completely disregard the Manual, for the Standard Manual is substandard and anti-scriptural at best. The three quotations cited herein are not exceptions, but they are typical of the mishandling and misuse of God’s word. The plea of this writer is that you will humbly and obediently turn from the creeds of men to the simplicity and purity of the New Testament. Embrace the gospel of Christ by doing all that it requires, and content yourself with being a disciple of Christ—a Christian. (Acts 11:26).