“What We Baptists Believe” – Cled E. Wallace

Cled E. Wallace

Rev.” W.J. McDaniel, a prominent Baptist minister of Chattanooga, Tennessee appears on the front page of the Baptist and Reflector in a long article on “Salvation By Grace.” This impresses me as about as strong a statement and defense of the Baptist position as can be made. I believe the gentleman to be dangerously wrong and shall address myself to the task of showing that he is by the scriptures. There are some points of agreement I am glad to acknowledge.

Man is lost and needs to be saved. Human power and resources are incapable of accomplishing the work. Man possesses no merit that puts God in debt to him. He must be saved by the grace of God. He must exercise faith in God, put his trust in a divine Saviour, else his case is hopeless.

O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Anything, therefore, that a man does to be saved must be an act of faith, an expression of trust and in obedience to God. He does it because God tells him to do so. To expect salvation in the performance of any act that God has not commanded in specific relation to salvation would be the height of presumption. God does not require a man to do anything, nor can he do anything, that entitles him to boast, “that no flesh should glory before God.” I take it that this fundamental situation is clear and agreed upon. It should serve to protect us from some more or less ugly charges that are sometimes made against us. The Baptist brother seeks to clarify the discussion with a series of questions:

As a matter of clarifying this discussion allow me to further reveal the position of Baptists by asking the following questions: (1) Can a person be saved by uniting with the church? (2) Does the rite of baptism save one or have any part in saving one? (3) Does the observance of the Lord’s Supper have any part in the salvation of the soul? (4) Can a person be saved by just doing the best he can?’ Is there any work a man might do which will bring about salvation for him?

I shall first answer these questions in the light of what the scriptures say and then pay my respects to why “We Baptists do not believe” it.

(1) A person cannot be saved by uniting with the Baptist Church or any other religious denomination of human origin. They are plants which the Father did not plant. The New Testament knows nothing of them. The church the Lord built is “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27) and includes all the people of God (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 12:4-5). “God set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased him” (1 Cor. 12:18). The church is the family of God, including all the children of God and he adds them to the church, the family, when he saves them (Acts 2:47). We invite Mr. McDaniel to point out even one Christian in the New Testament who was not a member of the church. They became Christians through the spiritual process of the new birth and entered the family of God, the church in the same way. “Uniting with the church” may be sufficient to get somebody tangled up with the Baptist denomination, but he has to be born in order to establish membership in the church of God. “Can a man be saved by” being born again? That is exactly how he is saved, and that is precisely how he enters the family of God, the church! “Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). By common consent the new birth has nothing to do with making a man a member of the Baptist church. He can have everything the new birth has to offer outside that human denomination.

(2) “Does the rite of Baptism save one or have any part in saving one?” If the purpose is to “clarify this discussion” care should be taken to frame questions so that they will reveal rather than becloud issues. God saves sinners when he pardons their sins. Sinners must exercise faith in Jesus Christ by being baptized into Christ, into his death (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptism is “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Is it essential that such a relationship be established in order to salvation? Let us alter the form of the question somewhat “as a matter of clarifying this discussion.” “Does the rite of baptism” put “one” into Christ or into the death of Christ? Paul says it does, even if “We Baptists do not believe that.” I believe I’ll just stick to Paul.

(3) “Does the observance of the Lord’s Supper have any part in the salvation of the soul?” It is clearly taught in the New Testament that the Lord’s Supper is for the Lord’s children and nobody can partake of it who is not a Christian. It is a memorial feast for Christians. It is a communion of the blood and body of the Lord for baptized believers. It is nowhere stated that the Lord’s Supper introduces “one” into Christ or puts “one” into his death. When convicted sinners in the New Testament asked what they must do, they were not told to repent and take the Lord’s Supper for the remission of sins. They were told to repent and be baptized. Why should the Lord’s Supper be introduced into “this discussion?” The use that has been made of it is not “clarifying” for an effort is made to make it parallel with baptism. They differ widely in both act and design. What is said of one does not apply to the other at all. A theory that requires such a mishandling of the word of truth cannot be right.

(4) “Can a person be saved by just doing the best he can?” Man must not depend on his own efforts for salvation. He must trust in the Lord with all his heart. “Though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:8-9). “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).

(5) “Is there any work a man might do which will bring about salvation for him?” Yes. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29). “What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? Can that faith save him?” (Jas. 2:14). “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith” (Jas. 2:24). The “works” by which a man is justified is “the obedience of faith” and makes faith “perfect.” It is active trust in God. Baptists contend that “baptism for remission” makes faith void. I deny it. Baptism is not a work of human righteousness. It is a command of God definitely related to the cross of Christ and the remission of sins. It would be refreshing if Baptists would quit beating around the bush and come up to the issue “as a matter of clarifying this discussion.” About all they have succeeded in doing when they talk about baptism and the Lord’s Supper is to muddy the water.

I believe that I have contributed something definite “as a matter of clarifying this discussion” by answering Pastor McDaniel’s questions. These are scriptural answers. Now I am going to give you, in his own words, some of the reasons why “We Baptists do not believe that.”

We Baptists do not believe that uniting with our church or any other church can or will save a single lost soul. We do not find in the Word of God a single reference where church membership is necessary to the forgiveness of sins. Our conviction is that the work of salvation is the combined work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore outside the pale of the church. The church is vital and necessary but possesses no saving power in itself. That power rests with God and has never been given to mortal man who as individuals go to make up the organism known as the church. The church is an area ordained of Jesus Christ in which the sheep are to be cared for and nurtured. It is Christ that leadeth into the church and not the church which leadeth into Christ.

We Baptists” have no monopoly on the conviction “that power rests with God” and “the church…possesses no saving power in itself.” On the other hand some of us who are not Baptists earnestly contend that the church is the body of Christ and consists of those who have been saved through “that power that rests with God.” When God saves a man by “that power” he adds him to the church. I’m afraid that “We Baptists do not” know what the church is. This talk about “our church or some other church” sounds somewhat Ashdodish. “Christ is the head of the church, being himself the Saviour of the body” (Eph. 5:23). The Lord built the church that he “might reconcile them both in one body unto God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Eph. 2:16). “That power that rests with God” saves men “in one body” not out of it as “We Baptists” contend. The fact that “We Baptists do not believe that” is a fairly good sign that “we” need to review our faith somewhat to make it conform to what the scriptures teach. Some of us are thoroughly convinced that Baptist pride cannot “save a single soul.” The Baptist brother is rather reckless with his use of “therefore.” Because “salvation is the combined work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” a fact I am not even inclined to deny, he concludes that it is “therefore outside the pale of the church.” That conclusion is remarkable for its irrelevance. It does not follow at all. We might with more justice conclude that he thinks that the church itself is “outside the pale of the combined work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The church is composed of men and women who have been saved through “the combined work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” “That power that rests with God” to save sinners is divinely declared to be the Gospel. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). It was preached by men, produced faith and sinners are saved by faith. All thus saved constitute the church even if “We Baptists do not believe that.” Paul is right and “We Baptists are wrong. We are told that “the church is vital and necessary.” What church? Is it “our church” that “is vital and necessary” or is it some other church? It is a little hard to figure out how any church can be either “vital” or “necessary” when a sinner can be born again, enjoy the blessings of divine citizenship in the kingdom of heaven and finally reach glory, and never even be a member of it. If such a church is vital, to what is it vital? If such a church is necessary, to what is it necessary? I’m inclined to think “We Baptists” are a queer people. Here is a divine reason why the church is both vital and necessary. “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). This baptism that introduced them “into one body” also put them “into Christ” and “into his death” (Rom. 6:3-4).

We Baptists” are fanatically opposed to the idea that baptism is a condition of remission of sins, even though the New Testament specifically teaches that it is: It is classified as “obedience of faith” but “We Baptists” prefer to shift it to the realm of works of human righteousness and exclude it on grounds of grace. Here is a Baptist sample of that sort of thing:

The two ordinances of the New Testament church are the Lord’s supper and baptism. Neither of these have within themselves or contribute toward the salvation of a single lost soul. Both are to be observed and participated in by the saved man and in no manner of means saves him or contributes toward his salvation. Both are symbols and representative. Various religious bodies attach more or less saving powers to these two ordinances but Baptists attach absolutely none. God is consistent and the Bible is consistent. There is no contradiction to be found in the Word of God. And yet, if either or both of these ordinances played any part in the saving of a lost soul, then our text `By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast,’ would be inconsistent with such beliefs. The argument of some people with regard to one or both of these ordinances is grossly illogical and inconsistent with hundreds of Biblical references. The work of mortal man in the administration and preparation of either or both of these ordinances will make salvation dependent in part on the work of man. For example, a sinner desires to be saved and has thus repented of his sins and turns to God in faith—God sees the penitent sinner and discerns his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ but is held up in saving the poor sinner until mortal man prepares and administers either or both of these ordinances. Such presumption is of man and not of God or to be found in the Bible.

We Baptists” abruptly reject anything that “will make divine salvation dependent in part on the work of man.” It is freely conceded that a sinner is saved by grace, that he can do nothing by way of securing it that entitles him to even one little boast. His salvation is a gift from God. At that it is “dependent in part on the work of man” because God has ordained it so, whether “We Baptists” believe it or not. The sinner has access into grace through faith. He must believe. He cannot believe without testimony. He must be taught and he must learn. “It was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom the have not believed? And how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:13-14). Why do “We Baptists” preach to sinners anyway and plead with them to accept a Saviour, if salvation is not “dependent in part on the work of man?” Trying to clarify the design of baptism by talking about the Lord’s Supper is a futile gesture. “We Baptists do not believe that” the Lord’s Supper is “to be observed and participated in by the saved man” unless he has been baptized. It can be easily proved by scripture citations that the Lord’s Supper is to “be observed and participated in by the saved man,” but where is the text that says or implies that a saved man must be baptized? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Shall be saved! Where salvation and baptism are mentioned in a connected manner, salvation, invariably follows baptism. There is no text that says that “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.” “Such presumption is of man and not of God or to be found in the Bible.” Possibly, but I think not, Pastor McDaniel will explain to us why the saved man can “observe and participate in” the Lord’s supper repeatedly, but cannot “observe and participate in” baptism but once. What other Christian duty does the Baptist brother know about that a Christian cannot perform but one time? Baptism is a “symbol.” Why cannot a Christian be baptized often to symbolize what baptism is the symbol of? What the New Testament says about the design of baptism explains it, but “We Baptists do not believe that,” you know.

For example, a sinner desires to be saved and has thus repented of his sins and turns to God in faith…” How did this sinner know he was a sinner and what made him desire to be saved and what caused him to turn to God in faith? The preaching of the Gospel. If God was “held up in saving the poor sinner until mortal man” preached to him so he could believe, the added delay occasioned by his baptism would not amount to much of a hold-up, unless “We Baptists” prolonged the inquest and took too much time in hearing his experience and voting on him. Elder McDaniel is not explaining the scriptures. He is merely talking back at some very plain texts which “We Baptists do not believe.” “With regard to one or both of these ordinances” he “is grossly illogical and inconsistent” in dealing with what the scriptures say about them. He asserts and assumes with little effort at proof. “We Baptists” are like that when we get worked up on what “We do not believe.”

I read “for example” about a fair-sized bunch of sinners desiring to be saved on Pentecost. They even asked the apostles what they must do to be saved. Simon Peter did not think he was holding God up when he told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. The Baptist and Reflector thinks that “such presumption is of man and not of God or to be found in the Bible.” Too bad that “We Baptists” were not there to set Peter right and rebuke his presumption. “We” got here late but we can still shout “We do not believe that.” It is “found in the Bible” all right. It is in the second chapter of Acts.

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