C.G. Caldwell, Jr.
It is almost needless to stress the importance of faith, inasmuch as the religious world generally agrees that faith is prerequisite to salvation. The Scriptures speak plainly on the subject: “Without faith it is impossible to please him,” “by grace are ye saved through faith,” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” These passages could be multiplied endlessly, but since we are all agreed that faith is indispensable to salvation, let us see if we can determine what is meant by faith as used in the New Testament writings,
Faith and Obedience
There is a light, flimsy sentiment that somebody (not inspiration!) started in the world which teaches that mere mental assent to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world is sufficient to save from spiritual death. Jesus anticipated this doctrine of man and said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Mere mental assent to the being of God and His Son is not sufficient. Surely, one is foolish indeed to claim faith in Christ and at the same time deny what the Lord said in regard to the necessity of doing that which the Father commands. To have faith means that one not only recognizes that Christ is God’s Son, but he does what God says do.
Moses, on one occasion, was charged by God with not believing in Him. God had commanded Moses to speak to a rock, and had promised that when he had done this, water would come forth from the rock. Instead of doing what God commanded, Moses struck the rock, and thus invoked God’s displeasure. God said, “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12). Moses believed that God existed; he further believed that God would supply water from the rock. But he did not believe God to the extent of obedience. Therefore, God said, “Ye believed me not.”
In the Bible the words believe and obey are sometimes used interchangeably. For example, we read, “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life, but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life” (John 3:36). Whether we have, or see, eternal life depends on our believing (obeying) the Son of God. One who does not believe in the Lord enough to do what he says, does not believe in him in a true Bible sense—or to the saving of his soul.
Faith and Baptism
The Lord commands that men be baptized. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). In all Christendom baptism is the most troublesome doctrine. It is regarded by nearly all man-made churches as the “Great-Non-Essential.” There are men who would actually die to retain it in their creeds as a non-essential, and yet declare that it is of no value to the saving of the soul. They claim to believe in Christ, but do they? Can one truly believe in Christ and at the same time deny what Christ said? What some of our religious friends call faith is actually a lack of it—just plain, unadulterated unbelief! Is it faith or a lack of faith that causes a man to refuse to do what God commands ?
Baptism is so designed as to test our faith. Why? Because it seems foolish and is despised by the world; Someone says, “I just can’t see any sense in it. If the saving of the soul is a spiritual consideration—and it is—what is there about burying the physical body in water that will tend toward the washing away of sins? I can’t understand it!” On the ground of not being understood, it is rejected. Such an attitude is purely the product of Modernism. Modernism is that philosophy which rejects the authority of the Bible and substitutes in its stead man’s intellect.
Faith and Understanding
Modernism demands a reason for everything that is done. Yet we are surrounded on every hand by things we do not understand. No one rejects these things simply because they are not understood. What would you think of the man who says; “I just can’t understand the idea of radio, therefore I will not listen to a radio”? A man would be unreasonable and lacking in gray matter to insist that the thing be thoroughly understood before he would accept it.
Yet this is the very logic (?) some apply to the matter of baptism. They say, “I can’t understand all of the how or why of sins being washed away in baptism, therefore I hold baptism to be non-essential!” Paul said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). When I am confronted with the command from God’s book to do that, the reason for which is “not seen” by me, my faith compels me to obey.
What would be the caliber of my faith if I refused or failed to submit to the plain teaching of God’s word? Paul said, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Peter said that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). These statements are plain and positive. There may be mystery in the reason why God ordered baptism but there is certainly no mystery concerning the fact that He did order it.
The man who refuses to accept the facts contained in the Book of God because there is mystery involved, is a man who refuses to be guided by facts and who has such an inflated view of the powers of his own mind that he concludes that whatever he cannot fully understand and explain simply is not so. Paul said, “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). It is when reason rebels or falls short that faith accepts and causes us to do what God says.
Baptism is the only thing in the Bible that has the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit connected directly with it. Let us not, then, minimize it by calling it a “non-essential” and thus separate it from faith in the gospel.