Why I Am Not A KJV-Onlyist, Pt. 2

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [Psalm 119:89]*

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160]

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Timothy 2:15]

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

In the first part of this series we examined the assumptions which underlie the KJV Only cult’s beliefs and gave examples from the King James translators themselves as to why those beliefs are defective. In this installment, we shall look at other problems with the KJV-Onlyists’ beliefs and the evidence against them.

One of the arguments advanced by KJV-Onlyists as the justification for their misguided views is that the KJV translators had a perfect knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. As a corollary to this view, they assert that translators who worked on modern translations are inferior to the KJV translators intellectually and spiritually. They basically use a form of circular logic, in which one argues from a point which has yet to be proven to prove that point. The argument goes something like this:

1: The KJV is superior to any modern translation.

2: It is a perfect translation because the translators had a superior knowledge of Hebrew and Greek than any translator who has worked on modern translations.

3: The translators proved they had a superior knowledge because they produced the King James Version of the Bible.

Now I would grant that the men who translated the King James Version were men of great academic accomplishment for their time, but the question of whether or not their knowledge of the biblical languages was superior to what is known today is highly debatable, if not patently false. Certainly they did not claim such for themselves. And given what we know about the nature of the text and what has been discovered over the past 250 years the claim is arguably false on the face of it.

In the first place, the men who translated the KJV were totally unaware of the nature of the Greek language used in writing the New Testament books. They knew it differed from the classical Greek demonstrated in the writings of Aristotle, Plato, and Homer, but they attributed this to the language being some special form of the Greek language. We now know from the work of linguist/archaeologist Alfred Deissman that the language of the New Testament was koine [common] Greek, the language of the marketplace and the streets, not the language of the academics.

Consequently, the translation of the New Testament of the KJV abounds in grammatical errors caused by this lack of knowledge. The most glaring of these is found in Titus 2:13, which is a clear testimony to the Deity of Christ, calling Him “God and Savior.” The KJV muddles the translation by making the reference separate God from Christ. They simply did not know how to translate the phrase correctly. It wasn’t until Granville Sharp, working almost two hundred years after the time of the KJV translators, discerned the relationships of regular nouns joined by a conjunction in reference to a proper noun that the correct translation became clear.

Interestingly, the modern translations which KJV-Onlyists falsely accuse of downplaying the Deity of Christ are in agreement that Titus 2:13 presents the clearest witness to the Deity of Christ. The ONLY translation which follows the KJV in its erroneous translation of the passage is the equally erroneous New World Translation published by the Jehovah’s Witness cult.

Another myth proposed by the KJV-Only cult is that the modern translations dishonor God by not capitalizing pronouns which refer to Deity. These are the most prominent translations which capitalize pronouns referring to Deity: the CSB [Christian Standard Bible], the Amplified Bible, the NASB [New American Standard Bible], the MEV [Modern English Version], the NKJV [New King James Version], and the HCSB [Holman Christian Standard Bible]. And the prominent translations which do NOT capitalize pronouns referring to Deity [which according to the logic of the KJV-Onlyists means the translators do not really worship God] are: the ESV [English Standard Version], the NIV [New International Version], and… wait for it… drum roll please… the KJV itself! So, as I noted, by their own arbitrary and capricious standards, the KJV itself should be jettisoned because the translators profaned the honor of God by not demanding that pronouns which refer to Him be capitalized.

A very real example of an error in the translation of the KJV may be found in Mark 6:20, which reads, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Compare this to the NKJV rendering of the same passage: for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. Did Herod observe John the Baptist, or did he protect him? The Greek term is suntereo [pronounced “soon-tay-REH-ŏh”] and according to all recognized authorities, it means to protect, guard, keep safe. In other passages where suntereo appears, such as Matthew 9:17 and Luke 5:38, it is rendered “preserve” in the KJV, giving a correct rendering to the term.

Another infamous mistranslation in the KJV is found in Mark 9:18, which reads: And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. The NKJV renders the passage: And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not. The Greek word is xeraino [pronounced “xay-RAH-ee-nō”. This is what is known as a deponent verb where the meaning changes according to the form it takes. While it can mean “to wither [or pine] away” — that is only if the verb is in the ACTIVE voice, where the focus is on the subject of the verb. In this context the verb is in the PASSIVE voice, where the focus of the verb is on the object. And in the PASSIVE voice it always means to become rigid, like a piece of wood when it dries up and is no longer flexible. This is especially crucial when we note what was happening in the passage. The demon which possessed the child was causing the child to have seizures. Anyone ever witness someone having grand mal epileptic seizures? They don’t wilt and become limp. They stiffen up.

Another infamous passage where the KJV translators did not render the verb accurately is in Luke 18:12: I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. In this case, the error is perpetuated by the NKJV. The NASB renders the passage: I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. This is another example of a deponent verb, which changes meaning according to how it is used. In this case, the verb is ktaomai [pronounced “KTAH-ŏm-eye”], it means “possess” only if it is in the perfect tense. Here the verb is in the present tense and therefore can only mean “to acquire,” not to have already as a possession.

Another way in which KJV-Only cultists denigrate modern translations is through the ignorant claim that the modern translations have removed parts of the text. They claim that this violates the command of God in Deuteronomy 4:2 because the modern translations have taken away from the word of God, citing such passages as Mark 16:9-20 and 1 John 5:7-8, among others. The problem is that they make the assertion without evidence, but based on the unproven presumption that the KJV itself is perfect and therefore is the standard by which all translations are to be measured, not the original texts themselves.
What they fail to consider, or hypocritically ignore is the very real possibility that the Bible version they idolatrously worship may have added to the text something that was not in the original texts, and thereby securing their own condemnation under the same passage they use to condemn others.

Their ignorance or hypocrisy is further displayed when it is pointed out that in many passages the KJV itself has taken away from the word of God. For example, look at Hebrews 9:7: But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. Now look at the same passage in the NKJV: But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance. It is dishonest to apply a standard of critique to one translation of Scripture if one is not willing to apply the same standard of critique against one’s pet translation. But then, from my experience, KJV-Onlyists aren’t exactly known for acting from honest motives or logical, intellectual, or moral consistency.

Another problem with the KJV-Onlyists is their head in the sand attitude towards changes in the English language which have occurred over the past four hundred years. While James White documents many instances where the language has changed such that the Elizabethan style of the KJV [which is late Middle English] is almost incomprehensible§, let us look at one of the most famous instances in 2 Thessalonians 2:7: “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Although this was a correct translation at the time, the problem with this translation is that the word has changed in its meaning. Originally it meant to prevent, or hinder. The contemporary meaning is to permit or allow — the opposite of what it originally meant. This is why modern translations render the passage as For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.

Another infamous example of an anachronistic error in the KJV is found in Acts 12:4: And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. As much as the KJV-Only cultists refuse to admit it, this is an error pure and simple — a poor choice of translating the Greek word pascha [pronounced “PĂS-khăh”]. The word appears twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and twenty-eight times the KJV translators rendered it correctly — as “Passover.” There is no possible linguistic or logical justification for this error.

What is equally confounding here is that most KJV-Onlyists are the first to attribute the term “Easter” to pagan origins and accuse translators of modern translations of attempting to foist New Age neo-paganism on unsuspecting churchgoers. Why are they inconsistent in this matter — is it because of ignorance or dishonesty?‡

Yet another red herring KJV-Onlyists use as a criticism against modern translations is that they are copyrighted. They argue that God’s word cannot be copyrighted. The inference being that the KJV was never copyrighted. First, it should be noted that this argument is utterly false. Because the work of translation was subsidized by the British Crown, upon its completion it became the property of the British Crown, and this ownership, unlike an ordinary copyright in modern times, exists in perpetuity. Every publishing house in Britain which publishes copies of the KJV has to pay a fee to the Crown for a license to publish the KJV. Even Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, the largest Christian publishing concern in the United States, has to pay royalties to the British Crown for the privilege of publishing copies of the KJV. That sounds a lot like a copyright to me. Again, are KJV-Onlyists merely ignorant or dishonest?

And, finally, one of the most absurd reasons the KJV-Only cult gives for their rejection of modern translations is that the translators on those translations are not Baptists, but [to use their words] “baby sprinklers.” This is absurd because when one reviews the lists of translators involved in such translations as the NKJV, the NASB, the ESV, and the NIV, over half of the people listed are affiliated with denominations who have strong beliefs in believer immersion. What makes this rationale absurdly ironic at best, if not hypocritical, and reveals the KJV-Onlyists as either total ignoramuses in matters of history at best, is the number of men who translated the KJV who believed in and practiced believer immersion: ZERO. Yup, every single man who was involved in the translation of the KJV was an Anglican—a BABY SPRINKLER. So again, what is the basis for their belief—ignorance or dishonesty?

In the final analysis, the proof of any truth claims rests on two foundation stones. The first stone is that of historical, verifiable facts, and the KJV-Onlyists have no facts with which to back up their outrageous and utterly false claims.

The second foundation upon which the truth claims of the KJV-Only cult has to rest is that of what fruit is produced by their beliefs. When one reads the writings [ravings would be more like it] produced by those in the cult, we do not find the love of Christ which desires that all men might repent and be saved. Their churches are not active in missions, instead they are insular and inbred, placing themselves in the judgment seat over other believers over the most nitpicky issues. They are legalists who would make the first century Pharisees proud with their man-made rules and regulations which have no basis in Scripture. And in truth, when one sees them engaged in various forms of sexual immorality, one wonders, “Where is the fruit of true holiness in their lives if their beliefs are so true?”

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§ See James White, The King James Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations? (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1995, 2009) pp. 276-296, for a detailed listing of the multiplicity of errors and mistakes in the KJV.

‡ This of course is dependent on one accepting the ahistorical myth perpetrated by Edward Hislop in a nineteenth century work titled The Two Babylons, in which Hislop, without any evidence, claims the word “Easter” is derived from the Canaanite pagan goddess Ishtar and represents a springtime fertility ritual appropriated by the Roman Catholic church after the conversion of Constantine. The true nature of the term “Easter” is that it derives from the German word Ostern, which derives from the Teutonic word Erstehen, which meant “resurrection.” So there is nothing pagan about the term, but it is still anachronistic to read a modern English word back into a first century Greek document.

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Why I Am Not a KJV-Onlyist, Pt. 1

Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. [Psalm 119:89]*

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. [Psalm 119:160]

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [2 Timothy 2:15]

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,

that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17]

One of the more insidious cults infesting the church today is called “King James [Version] Onlyism.” This cult venerates an archaic version beyond what even the scholars who translated it would consider proper—to the point of making one’s salvation dependent upon whether or not one uses this translation alone. They ignore the facts of history, and even Biblical teaching itself. They truly manifest a form of idolatry called bibliolatry because of their literal worship of the translation itself over what it teaches.

They make the following claims concerning the KJV and other translations: (1) The translators of the KJV were divinely inspired in the translation. (2) Where the translation differs from the Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, it is advanced revelation which supersedes the originals. (3)Therefore the KJV as it was originally translated in 1611 is the only “perfect” translation and all other translations are corrupted. (4) Anyone who does not vernerate the KJV and use it alone is not really a Christian. But are these claims really true? In a word, no. And we shall go more in-depth into why these beliefs are wrong historically, factually, and theologically as we proceed.

Were the translators of the KJV divinely inspired for the task?

Whenever one looks at the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, one is struck by the fact that whenever the writers wrote, they were aware that what they were writing was Scripture and Divinely inspired. Examples are seen in 2 Samuel 23:2; Psalm 45:1; 1 Corinthians 15:37; 2 Peter 3:15-16. Those who penned the words of the books of the Bible in the original languages KNEW that what they were writing were the words of God.

Can the same be said for those who translated what we know as the King James Version? The men who translated this version would be the first to claim that there was no Divine inspiration involved in the process.

It is unfortunate that contemporary editions of the KJV no longer include an important preface written by Miles Smith, one of the translators, called “From the Translators to the Reader.” Originally written as a defense of the KJV against detractors in the seventeenth century, it stands today as a critique against those who vilify and demonize modern translations and those who use them.

For example, Smith wrote in the preface, “Now to the latter [our adversaries] we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [poorest] translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, IS the word of God.” This strikes at the very heart of the KJV-Only cultists’ argument: Because they claim that the KJV alone is the word of God and all other translations are perversions. The men who translated the KJV believed otherwise. They believed all godly attempts to translate the Bible were worthy of honor as the word of God—even the most poorly executed. Smith explained further using this analogy: “As the King’s speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere.” In other words, to follow this analogy, the King’s speech, no matter how it may be rendered differently in translation due to the Translator’s skills, remains the King’s speech.

Smith further notes: “Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at the length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to that pass that you see.”

This is important to note. Miles did not claim any sort of Divine inspiration for their labors. Instead, he said, “we did not think much to consult” various commentaries or other translations in the process. The phrase “did not think much” is a colloquialism which means they had no objections to consulting those authorities for guidance in translation.

Miles also noted that “neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered.” One has to wonder: If the KJV carries with it the Divine Inspiration those who slavishly engage in the sin of bibliolatry attribute to it, then why did the translators have to engage in any form of revision and editing? So we see from the hand of one of the chief translators of the KJV that the translators attached no sense of Divine inspiration to their labors.

This brings us to the second error of the KJV-Only cultists: that the original languages must be discarded whenever they disagree with the KJV. This is stated repeatedly by one of their own, one Peter Ruckman, who wrote: “Mistakes in the KJV are advanced revelation!”§ “Moral: in exceptional cases, where the majority of Greek manuscripts stand against the A.V. [Authorized Version – another name for the King James Version] 1611, put them in file 13.”ŧ

What is the most confounding of Ruckman’s statements is this one however: “Where the perverse Greek reads one way and the A.V. reads the other, rest assured that God will judge you at the Judgment on what you know. Since you don’t know the Greek (and those who knew it altered it to suit themselves), you’d better go by the A.V. 1611 text.”† In this statement, Ruckman and his cult make several errors. In the first error, KJV-Onlyism is much like Roman Catholicism. Pope Ruckman has spoken and his followers must accept his declarations as fact without question.

The second error evident in Ruckman’s thinking is that “God will judge you…on what you know,” so people just better accept the A.V. 1611 without thinking about anything else. But when looking at Scripture itself, the teaching throughout Scripture is that believers have an OBLIGATION to examine every matter for him or herself. We are to test teachers to make sure what they teach is indeed consistent with the word of God [Matthew 7:15-20] and beware of those who do not teach the word of God. Those who are faithful in examining all teaching [including Ruckman’s] are considered noble-minded [Acts 17:11]. Those who blithely and blindly accept false teachings, whether out of fear, laziness, or ignorance, are not.

Finally, Ruckman, whether he was aware of it or not, impugned the character of the men who translated the KJV but insinuating that they themselves were guilty of altering the Greek text to suit their purposes. It should be noted however, that Ruckman, for whatever academic attainments he may have possessed, was never an authority in any of the Biblical languages and therefore can hardly be considered a competent authority in the matter. To grant him authority over such matters is like recognizing a mere EMT or LPN as an authority on neurology or cardiology.

Let’s look now at the third question: Is the KJV a perfect translation? The translators who worked on the translation for four years did not think so. Again, the words of translator Miles Smith in the preface: “…neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered….” If the translation was perfect, why was there any need for revision?

More pointedly, and what the KJV-Only cultists do not realize is that the version they venerate without sound reasons for doing so, is NOT the KJV as it was originally published in 1611. That translation underwent revisions in 1629, 1638, 1762, and 1769. While KJV-Onlyists dismiss these revisions as simply “corrections in spelling,” they are either ignorant of the facts or being deliberately dishonest. These were not “corrections in spelling,” but major changes in the translation itself, in many cases affecting the interpretation of the revised passages, as a careful comparison of the 1611 edition and any modern printing of the KJV [which is the 1769 edition] will show. The fact that KJV-Onlyists do not check these matters out can only be attributed to either laziness or dishonesty.

Finally, there is the issue of whether or not a person who does not use the KJV can be considered a Christian. I do not find, in any version of the Bible, where Jesus said that His followers would be known by their slavish devotion to an archaic translation of the Bible. Instead, He declared that the mark of true disciples would be their love for one another [John 13:35]. The apostles taught that our obedience to Christ would be the measure of our true love and devotion [1 John 2:5]. We are also taught that our confession would be proven by the fruit of our lives [Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23].

So what kind of fruit do we see in the lives of the KJV-Onlyists? Wherever they go they stir up dissension, discord, and distrust. Proverbs 6:20 states that such a person is an abomination to the Lord. That puts the KJV-Onlyists in the same category as those who practice sexual perversion. [Leviticus 20:10-21]

But there are other examples as well. Peter Ruckman, whose writings and attitude dominate the KJV-Only cult, was a serial adulterer. He was married four times in his life. He was divorced three times. Although he is dismissive of his divorces as being cases of his wives abandoning him—the fact remains that they abandoned him because of his adulteries.

Ruckman’s is not the only case. I know of one case personally where a vociferous KJV-Onlyist abandoned his wife to have an affair with a woman he had met online.

Of course, one could easily rebut this by claiming that the cases of Ruckman and my acquaintance are aberrations and not the norm. And they might be right, but at the same time, I could claim that such behavior might be the tip of the iceberg. Maybe the others are simply smarter when it comes to hiding their infidelities.

However, what is not isolated in the KJV-Onlyist world is their hubris, especially when one considers that no one in the KJV-Only cult has what would be considered a high degree of education. Even the preachers go to schools where the only Bible taught from is the KJV—so how are they really qualified to do any form of textual analysis and be accepted as credible? It should also be noted that those schools [and I’ve looked at their catalogs, their course syllabi, and their reading lists] are usually no better than diploma mills. Those that do actually require any form of work require a level of academic performance which could best be described as less than rigorous. The teaching faculties of such schools represent a form of academic inbreeding such that one wonders why the schools aren’t located in Appalachia.

The first and greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” [Matthew 22:37]. KJV-Onlyism demands turning off your mind and blindly accepting whatever you are told. In other words, KJV-Onlyism represents rebellion against the greatest commandment.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§ Peter Ruckman, The Christian’s Handbook of Manuscript Evidence, Pensacola: Pensacola Bible Press, 1990, p. 126.

ŧ Ruckman, p. 130.

† Ruckman, p. 138.

 

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“The Lord gave me this song,” and other nonsense uttered by well-meaning, yet ill-informed Believers

Without going into a long introduction, I’d like to examine some of the top phrases uttered by Christians which seem to have a veneer of piety, but which, upon closer examination, reveal an appalling lack of sound doctrine to back them up.

#1:  The Lord gave me this song.

This was a popular phrase back in my high school days when someone was playing at a coffee house and wanted to introduce a song they had written. I think the basic intent of the statement was to express deference and humility, but it had the opposite effect.

In the first place, the underlying inference in the statement is that the song is a direct revelation from God and not merely the product of a human seeking to express something of God and His ways to other humans through music.

This leads to some serious questions:  Are we to then accept those songs as additional Scripture?  Based on what authority?  Is the songwriter claiming to be an apostle or prophet? Again, based on what authority? Have their claims been objectively confirmed or are we merely to take their word for it?

Another interesting conundrum this statement leads to is the fact that many times, the songs which were claimed to be given by direct revelation from God were awful.  The musical structure was tedious–at least when it wasn’t trite.  Moreover, oftentimes the lyrics, when not lacking completely in any Scriptural foundation, were vapid and shallow, more about the writer than about God.

I am familiar with one songwriter who recorded three albums’ worth of songs claiming that the songs were all theopneustos–inspired by God.  He even titled the albums Songs from the Savior, Songs from the Savior Volume II, and Songs from the Savior Volume III: Come into His Presence.

Which leads to another question, if the songs are divinely inspired, why isn’t God entitled to a songwriting credit?  In the three albums mentioned in the previous paragraph, God’s name does not appear in any of the publishing credits–only the singer’s name is shown. And given the fact all three albums sold enough to merit gold record status–or would have if they had been sold through conventional record store networks instead of through small independent Christian bookstores and directly through his coffee house appearances, I’m certain the singer raked in quite a bit of coin since the label was a small indie label created by the singer himself. So why didn’t God receive those royalties instead?

#2: “We have no creed but the Bible.”

This is an example of what, in the area of logic and debate, is known as a self-refuting argument. For several years I attended a congregation which took this stance.  What became laughable was when they started printing on the backs of their weekly bulletins a statement of “what we believe.”  Here is where the argument is self-refuting.  The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credere, which means… wait for it… to believe. So, this congregation, which claimed to not have any “creeds,” was publishing a creed every week in its bulletins.  So even if one calls it by another name, such as  a “statement [or confession] of faith [which is a synonym for belief],” one cannot escape the fact that one has a creed.

Even the Southern Baptists who claim:  (1) that they are not a denomination, and (2) that they have no creed, have a creed.  It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message  Statement. Last revised in 2000, it is modeled after the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833). Keep in mind, the word “faith” in this usage is synonymous with “belief” [credere in Latin]. So one can legitimately title the document the Baptist Belief and Message Statement. Moreover, at the annual convention every summer, every voting messenger is required to sign a statement affirming acceptance of the Statement before being issued credentials recognizing their status.  In the local congregation to which I belong, all members are required to sign an acknowledgement of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement before being accepted into membership.
Creeds actually serve a useful purpose. They provide a summary of doctrine by which we can know if we are actually understanding Scripture correctly. So any creed is only useful or accurate if it correctly interprets Scripture.

#3: We don’t need doctrine or theology, only Jesus.

Again, this is a nonsensical statement on the face of it. How do you know if what you believe about Jesus is correct?  You have to have been taught what to believe!  No one just picks up the Bible and comes to a proper understanding of sound doctrine by reading it cover to cover like one reads a novel.

For sake of example, what does the word “doctrine” mean?  The primary meaning is, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, “teaching, instruction.” According to Matthew 28:19-20, the primary purpose of the Church, as commanded by Christ Himself, is to TEACH.  So if any church diminishes the importance of doctrine, they can only do so by diminishing their obedience and loyalty to Christ.  If Christ thought doctrine was important enough to include it as part of the Great Commission, who are we to say otherwise?

What makes this statement even more appalling is that I have heard it come from the mouths of pastors.  Yet when one looks at the qualifications for a pastor, we see that he must be able to teach [1 Timothy 3:2], and he must be able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict. [ Titus 1:9]
Paul instructed Titus to speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. [Titus 2:1]

When one looks at the New Testament, one sees that great stress is placed on teaching sound doctrine.

The whole statement that we don’t need doctrine, just Jesus, is also nonsensical because it is a self-refuting argument.  Why do I say that?  Because in making such a declaration, one is making a doctrinal statement.

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Untwisting Scriptures #7 – Romans 10:17

So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17

I have often heard this passage misquoted, usually in Arminian circles, but increasingly in Southern Baptist circles, as indicating that all that is necessary for faith is hearing the word of God. According to these Scripture twisters, if we simply present the gospel, people will just naturally desire to become Christians.

Typically, the passage is misquoted by omitting the phrase “and hearing by,” so they quote it as “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”

Such distortion of Scripture is false for many reasons, not the least being that what they claim, is not what Scripture actually says.

First, why do they make this claim and distort the Scripture so? The reason for that lies in their acceptance of a heresy called Cassianism [or semi-Pelagianism], after a contemporary of Augustine, named John Cassian, who sought a mediating position between Augustine’s belief and that of a bishop named Pelagius.
Augustine taught that, because of our total depravity, which has made us totally dead in sin and at war with God, we are simply incapable of faith and repentance apart from a sovereign act of God, by which saving faith and the ability to repent from sin are imparted to believers based on the sovereign decree of God as a RESULT of the new birth. Augustine taught that our depravity was TOTAL—that it not only extended to our bodies being subject to death, but our will, our intellect, our emotions—EVERY aspect of our being was dead because of sin and that this condition was passed to every human being through the bloodline. Further, Augustine taught that the only grounds for our acceptance before God was because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Christ’s death on the cross was not merely sufficient to make us savable, but to actually accomplish salvation for those who were the elect of the Father according to His decree in eternity past.

Pelagius, countering Augustine, claimed that the Fall did not result in man’s total depravity, but that it only resulted in man’s physical corruption. Pelagius further taught that one could live a perfectly moral life apart from being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He taught that man did not sin because it was his nature, but because of influences. Finally, Pelagius subscribed to the view that the death of Christ on the cross simply provided us a moral example of the sacrifice to which we are called, not that it had any efficacy in accomplishing the salvation of believers.

John Cassian, as I noted, sought a mediating position between Augustine and Pelagius. However, it should be noted that the actual outworking of his thought places his followers closer to Pelagius than to Augustine, so really he did not mediate so much as try to make Pelagius’ teachings seem less heretical.

Cassian taught that the result of man’s fall was not that he was DEAD in sin, but merely incurably ill. He taught that man did not inherit a sin nature, but merely a propensity toward sin. He also taught the doctrine of “prevenient” grace as modeled by later false teachers in the Arminian tradition—that God embues all persons with a certain amount of grace to keep their wills free to accept or reject Christ. Cassian taught further that it is an act of the human will by which sinners repent and display saving faith, and it is because of their faith that they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit as a reward for their choice.

So what does all this have to do with Romans 10:17? Romans 10:17 is the focal passage where all these differences are most readily displayed. The problem is that the passage, as it actually appears, does not support the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian understanding of how grace effects us.

Most commentators, not looking at the actual construction of the language, the grammar and the syntax, simply gloss over the passage as simply expressing the need to proclaim the gospel and if we are faithful in proclaiming the gospel correctly, people will just naturally be attracted to it and want to respond.
As I indicated earlier in this article, they do so by omitting the phrase, “and hearing by” from any reading of the passage.

This is where the scripture has been twisted to mean something the writer did not intend. So let’s parse out this passage.

There are two independent clauses in this sentence:

Clause 1: So then, faith comes by hearing,

Clause 2: and hearing [comes] by the word of Christ.

In the first clause, the verb “comes” does not appear in the Greek text. It has been supplied by the translators in order to make the passage read more smoothly. It is based on the Greek preposition ex [pronounced “ex”] with the noun rendered as “hearing” being in the genitive or ablative case. Because of this construction, the preposition + genitive phrase actually acts as the subject of the clause, as that which produces faith, so it is quite proper to supply a verb which suggests that hearing is the cause of faith.

Now we turn to the second clause. It is joined to the first by the conjunction de [pronounced “deh”]. This conjunction may act as either an adversarial or contrastive conjunction [such as the English conjunctions “but” or “however”] or as a continuative [like the conjunction “and” when the second clause further clarifies the content of the first clause]. The context of the passage suggests that it is the latter usage. In this second clause, it is now stated that hearing comes from or is the result of an agent outside of oneself. Again, the verb is understood from the preposition, which in this second clause is dia with the genitive rhmatov [pronounced “HRAY-mah-tohs”], which indicates, not merely a passive speech, but a specific command directed to the hearer, by which he or she is thereby enabled to hear and obey.

This is crucial because, as passages such as Romans 3:10-14; Romans 8:7-8; and 1 Corinthians 12:3 indicate, men and women in their natural estate not only have no desire to seek God, they have no ability to seek God, let alone submit to
Christ and confess Him as Lord. Yet, Romans 10:9-10 states that our salvation is dependent upon us not only desiring Him as Lord, but confessing Him as such.

Since our salvation is dependent and conditional upon our confession and submission to Christ as Lord, and we cannot do this without an enablement of the Holy Spirit to do so, when does this enablement occur? It cannot occur before regeneration because prior to regeneration we have no such enablement, therefore it must occur subsequent to regeneration, both logically and temporally, although this operation of the Holy Spirit occurs basically in the blink of an eye as humans measure time, so as to appear almost to be simultaneous.

So, as we see, it is not merely the preaching of the gospel which produces conversions based on manipulating people into making “decisions for Christ.” Rather it is the sovereign act of God in which He regenerates people as He wills by the Holy Spirit [John 1:12-13; John 3:8; 6:37, 44, 65; 17:2, 6, 9-12; Romans 9:14-15; 1 Corinthians 12:3], and in so doing, gives His people faith and repentance.

 

§ Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. I am aware that some versions of the Bible use the phrase “word of Christ.” This is not a critical variant because preferring one variant over the other does not effect the overall thrust of the passage since Christ is God incarnate.

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Untwisting Scripture # 6 — Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be to your husband, And he shall rule over you. [Genesis 3:16]*

The key to understanding this passage lies in correctly understanding the Hebrew phrase “Your desire shall be to your husband.” More to the point, the key words are the words “desire shall be to.” What does the phrase mean?

The New King James Version is pretty straightforward in translating the passage with no interpretation whatsoever. Other translations which simply translate the phrase without adding an interpretation or coloring the meaning are the Christian Standard Bible, the Complete Jewish Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the Modern English Version, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, and the New Revised Standard Bible.

Some translations interpret the phrase rather than simply translate the phrase. The interpretations fall into two basic categories. The first, and more prevalent category follows the interpretation that the phrase means the woman will have affectionate desire for her husband. Translations/paraphrases which follow this interpretation are: the Amplified Bible [both the original edition and the 2015 update], the Contemporary English Version, the Good News Translation, the Living Bible, the Message, the New Century Version, and the Voice.

The second interpretation only appears in two translations, but those translations actually are the ones to capture the meaning of the idiom. Those two translations are the English Standard Version and the New Living Translation. What these translations indicate in rendering the passage is that the phrase means the woman would desire to dominate, control and oppose her husband.

But wait a minute! How do you derive that meaning from the text? It seems pretty straightforward.” I hear some say.

In the first place, let’s look at the clause which immediately follows: “But§ he shall rule over you.” This is a contrast to the clause immediately preceding, not a coordinative. Had the woman now possessed a natural desire to be obedient to her husband, this would have been unnecessary.

The fact of the matter is that in the Fall, the relationship of the woman to the man was turned on its head. The woman was created to be a helper for man, not the other way around. But after Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she usurped a position of dominance in the relationship. She ordered Adam to eat the fruit also and he complied.†

The part of the curse then is that women would strive for dominance over men in their relationships, but that God has ordained headship of families to be invested in the husbands.

Still questioning that interpretation? Look at Genesis 4:7. In this passage, God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door, and its [sin’s] desire was for him. The construction of the Hebrew phrase is identical to that found in Genesis 3:16 in which God said the woman’s desire would be for her husband. Moreover, this Hebrew phrase is found nowhere else in the Old Testament. Every commentary is agreed that in the context of Genesis 4:7, the phrase means that sin desires to control, dominate, and enslave Cain. Therefore, it stretches credulity to suggest that the phrase has the opposite meaning in Genesis 3:16—that woman will desire to please men rather than control them.

Further evidence that this is indeed the case is seen in the New Testament. If women are inclined by nature to seek to please a husband rather than control him, it would not have been necessary for Paul to write on two separate occasions, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:22. See also Colossians 3:18.]

And again, if the natural inclination of women is to submit to male authority and leadership, it would not have been necessary for Paul to instruct Timothy, And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over man, but to be in silence. [1 Timothy 2:12]

Some commentators claim, based on a flawed interpretation of Galatians 3:28, that because there is no male or female in Christ, there is no distinction between male and female in either authority or function in either the family or the church. The flaw in such an interpretation is that it ignores both the immediate context of the passage within the letter to the Galatians, as well as the broader context of the entire Bible. The immediate context speaks of justification by faith and that God does not make distinctions based on gender, national origin, socio-economic status, or ethnicity as to whom may be a recipient of God’s salvific grace. The passage speaks not a word concerning one’s authority within the family or the church.
Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, relying on the fuller revelation based on passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-13 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which were written after Galatians‡, clearly sets forth distinctions between the functions and roles of men and women in society, families, and the church which have not been set aside or annulled by the cross.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§ Some translations render the conjunction as “and.” However, rendering the conjunction as “but” is not merely linguistically acceptable, it makes perfect sense in the context. See William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), pp. 84-85.

Note the wording in Genesis 3:17, when God is then speaking to Adam, He states that the ground is to be cursed because Adam had “heeded” the voice of Eve. Other translations render the Hebrew word um^v* [pronounced “shaw-MAH”] as a milder verb “listened” — but the word denotes obedience to a command from a superior to an inferior. In other words, Eve usurped the role of God and demanded that Adam join her. Adam willfully elevated Eve to the status of God in obeying her, so his sin was not merely disobeying the command of God, but was an act of idolatry by placing his wife in the position of God.

Most commentators date the epistle to the Galatians between AD 49 – 52. First Corinthians is dated between AD 55 – 57. First Timothy is dated between AD 62 – 64. See C. I. Scofield, et al, Scofield Study Bible, NKJV edition (New York: Oxford University, 2002), pp. 1574, 1609, 1648; John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), pp. 1726, 1786, 1857; John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (general editors), The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pp. 506, 588, 729.

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Does Baptism Save [Part 2 of 2]

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [1 Peter 3:21]*

In the first part of this series, we examined the necessity of baptism, the proper mode of baptism [immersion, not sprinkling or pouring], and who is the proper subject to receive baptism. In this part of the series, we shall look at who is the proper administrator of baptism, when baptism should occur, where baptism should occur, and, finally, the purposes/design of baptism. In other world, what baptism accomplishes.

When we seek to answer the question of who is qualified to administer baptism. When one encounters a high church tradition [such as Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Methodism, or Episcopalianism], the view promoted is that only those who hold ecclesiastical authority are qualified to administer baptism. They do not view any baptism as valid which is not administered by one holding to ecclesiastical authority. This is even true in some Baptist denominations and cults like the United Pentecostal Church—which teach not only that the one administering the baptism must hold ecclesiastical authority—but must also hold the authority within their particular sect or cult for such baptism to be valid. Other sects, such as the churches of Christ would say that it is not necessary for the one to hold ecclesiastical authority to administer baptism, but, unless one was baptized with the specific understanding [according to them] that baptism is for the remission of sins, his/her baptism is not valid.

Such views are nonsense. In the first place, those who were baptized in the first century, before the completion of the canon of Scripture, did not possess a systematic and comprehensive theology of baptism. Such was certainly the case on the day of Pentecost, when over 3,000 people were baptized. The only knowledge they had concerning the purpose/design of baptism was what Peter spoke in his sermon on that day. [Acts 2:38-39] Nor was it the case of the Ethiopian court official [Acts 8:36-38], Paul the apostle [Acts 9:17-18; 22:12-16], Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48], and the church in Ephesus [Acts 19:1-5].

We do not find anywhere in Scripture where it is commanded that, in order for baptism to be valid, it must have been administered by one holding some form of ecclesiastical authority. For example, when Philip baptized the Samaritan believers [Acts 8:13], and later, the Ethiopian court official [Acts 8:38], we do not have any record of him holding any recognition as either an apostle or an elder.

Yet another example of one administering baptism with no record of holding ecclesiastical authority is that of Ananias baptizing Paul [Acts 9:18]. To say that one must be baptized by one holding ecclesiastical authority before such a baptism can be recognized as valid is to impose a tradition of men over an area about which the Bible is silent. The silence of Scripture in this case speaks volumes since the instances of Philip and Ananias administering baptisms without any indication of holding any specific ecclesiastical office provides an approved precedent in Scripture that anyone who is in right relationship with God may administer baptism.

The next issue is that of when baptism is to take place. In the twenty-first century, we do not really follow the Scriptures when it comes to this. Man-made tradition has made a big production out of baptisms, where it must be scheduled weeks in advance so we can invite families in to view it. This is not the Scriptural pattern. The pattern in the Bible is that baptism is to occur as quickly as possible upon one making a confession of faith. It was that way on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:41]. It was that way with the Samaritan believers [Acts 8:13]. It was that way with the Ethiopian eunuch [Acts 8:38]. It was that way for Paul [Acts 9:18]. It was that way for Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48]. It was that way for the Philippian jailer and his household [Acts 16:33]. It was that way for the Ephesian believers [Acts 19:5]. Acts 2:41 indicates that those who responded to the gospel on the day of Pentecost were baptized that same day—not at some indefinite point in the future when things could be “arranged.” The same is indicated in Acts 16:33—the Philippian jailer and his household were baptized IMMEDIATELY, the Greek word so translated is παραχρήμα [pronounced – “par-akh-RAY-ma”] which means it was done at once—without delay—not something to be put off until a more convenient time. This raises the point—since baptism is commanded by Christ, and since the approved precedent in the Bible is that it is a command to be obeyed without delay, where do we in the twenty-first century think we have the authority or permission to do it differently for the sake of convenience?

Part of the problem with thinking that baptism is a command where obedience can be deferred indefinitely to a more convenient time and place is linked to the nonsensical and unbiblical idea that it must occur within a “church building.” Why do I consider it nonsensical? Because in the first century, there were no “church buildings” with baptistries. The closest parallel would have been the baths [called “mikhvahs”] available in the Temple and the synagogue for ritual cleansings. Those were available 24/7/365 for cleansings because the need for ritual cleansings under the law was constant, not occasional. One common objection to immersion as the only valid mode of baptism is the claim that there would not be sufficient water to immerse three thousand people as was done on the day of Pentecost. Those who raise the objection fail to account for the mikhvahs present in the Temple for just such a purpose and that the events recorded in Acts 2 took place on the Temple grounds.

Look at another example—the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. We do not know where his baptism took place. The text indicates that Philip met him on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There is no indication of how long they spent together in conversation. All we do know is that there was apparently enough water to be immersed in and the Ethiopian eunuch desired to make his obedience to the gospel immediate. The exact location is not necessary for our knowledge because of our human proclivity to venerate locations and make them part of our man-made traditions—just as many Christians insist on delaying their baptism until they can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to be baptized in the Jordan River—as if the location makes the baptism more valid.

So we see that there is no requirement that the one administering baptism has to be one holding some form of ecclesiastical office. Nor is there any requirement that baptisms have to be limited to a church building or to a Sunday morning service.

Finally, we we need to examine the purposes/effects of baptism—because it is only when we truly understand those, that we can we appreciate its necessity in the life of the believer. And only then can we understand why the so-called “sinner’s prayer” is a cheap counterfeit confession of faith instituted by a non-immersionist false teacher named Charles Finney.

In the first place, only in baptism does the Bible say that we are united/joined with Christ. See Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:11-15—where Paul develops this teaching. When we go down into the waters of baptism, we incarnationally join in His death and burial. When we emerge from the waters we incarnationally are joined in His resurrection.

This is why modes such as sprinkling and pouring fail. There is nothing in the actions which can incarnationally represent death, burial, or resurrection. That is why many immersionists mock such counterfeits as “dry cleaning”–and deservedly so. Sprinkling and pouring are man-made counterfeits, not Scriptural obedience.

Another purpose/effect of baptism is found in Galatians 3:27. In baptism, we are clothed wαith Christ—that is to say that we clothed in His righteousness. We are no longer identified by the sinful nature, but are identified by His righteousness.

We also see the purpose/effect of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20—it is the “answer” [NKJV] to God for a clean conscience. The Greek word rendered as “answer” in the NKJV is επερωτημα [pronounced “ep-eh-ROW-tay-mah”]. The word is better translated as “appeal” in some translations. It is a legal term denoting one who stands before a court pleading for mercy.

Finally, we see the effect/purpose of baptism is that it is for the remission [removal] of sin. “But,” I hear some say, “are you not teaching baptismal regeneration?” No, I am not. Acts 2:38 states this is a purpose/effect of baptism. Some try to say the Greek grammar says we are baptized because our sins are remitted—but that is not merely sophistry—but reading into the text something that is not there–it is deliberately altering the grammar for the sake of one’s theology instead of conforming one’s theology to what the text actually says and means. The identical Greek construction appears in Matthew 26:28 where Christ said His blood is shed for the remission of sin. Our sins are removed by His blood that was shed on the cross, but we are not formally and publically identified as having our sins removed until we are united in His death, burial and resurrection through immersion.

So in answer to the question, can one be saved without being baptized, the answer is no. Those who usually ask the question are trying to justify their disobedience to the command of Christ to be baptized. To them I would ask the following: Can you show me anywhere in the New Testament where it is normative for one to identify as a follower of Christ without being immersed? They will usually throw up the example of the penitent thief on the cross—but that example fails for two reasons. First, the example of the thief on the cross precedes the command to be baptized since that command was given AFTER Christ’s resurrection. Secondly, that is not normative, but aberrational. Sound doctrine must be based on the plain teachings of Scripture and what it teaches as normative, not what is clearly presented as a one-time aberration prior to the resurrection and Pentecost.

The second question is this: can such people demonstrate from Scripture that it is normative to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ apart from baptism?

Thirdly, can anyone demonstrate from Scripture that it is normative to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ apart from baptism?

Finally, can anyone demonstrate from Scripture where it is normative for one to appeal to God for a clean conscience apart from baptism by immersion? Some will suggest the example of the penitent tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. As with the pentitent thief on the cross, this is pre-resurrection, pre-Pentecost, and represents an aberration, not a norm. The application itself is wrong because that it not the point of the parable. The point of the parable is that God honors humility over pride. Those who truly wish to come to God in humility and obedience have no reason not to be obedient to the command to be immersed.

The bottome line is this: Can such people demonstrate from the New Testament that one can appeal to God for a clean conscience, be united with Christ in His death burial, and resurrection, and be clothed in His righteousness without submitting to baptism? If so, where is your proof from the Bible?

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Does Baptism Save? [Part 1 of 2]

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [1 Peter 3:21]*

It seems there are two extremes when answering the question posed in the title.

On the one hand, there are those who place baptism as an optional expression of faith. Most who place their tents in this camp would be more nuanced, claiming that it is not necessary for salvation—but it is necessary for church membership. This is the camp where most churches in the Baptist tradition plant their flags, along with churches in the Wesleyan-Holiness-Pentecostal traditions.

On the other hand, we find those who assert that unless one has been baptized, one has not been truly regenerated, is not saved, and will not escape eternal condemnation. The strange bedfellows who set up their tents in this camp and plant their flags are just as diverse as the first camp: many from the churches of Christ/Christian churches which sprang from the Stone-Campbell movement of the early nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic church, churches within the so-called “Apostolic Faith” movement [AKA “One-ness” or “Jesus only” pentecostals], Lutherans, Episcopalians, and sects within the Eastern Orthodox traditions.

Within both camps, one will find arguments that unless one has been baptized according to a specific ritual, reciting certain words, and administered by one holding ecclesiastical authority, one has not been truly baptized. In the latter camp, they would also hold that such persons, not having been correctly baptized, have not been truly regenerated.

It is my belief that neither of these extremes presents a fully developed theology of baptism based on all Scripture teaches.

The place to start in developing a theology of baptism is to look at all the Scriptures pertaining to baptism and attempt to adduce how they connect.

This is important because each flag that has been planted has been planted on a Scripture which is dear to that tradition—usually to the exclusion of other passages which disprove the exclusivity of that particular flag. Or the tradition will plant its particular flag as the starting and ending points of all discussion and not even develop a fuller understanding of all that Scripture may say on the matter.

Some traditions plant their flag on the mode of baptism. Within this battleground, some argue for the mode of sprinkling, in which a few drops of water are placed on the head of the person being “baptized,” while others argue for affusion [the highbrow term for pouring a small amount of water on the recipient], others may argue for no physical mode at all, claiming that “true” baptism is merely the spiritual “encounter” one has, and still others will argue for immersion. Finally, there are a few who would assert that any method is valid as long as the recipient has true faith.

I need to say before I proceed that I raise this point, not to plant a flag, but rather a surveyor’s marker, not to say beyond this point I will not proceed, but to try to map out as much as possible everything Scripture has to say on the subject.

It must be noted that baptism is a command—not an option. Don’t believe me? Look at Matthew 28:19-20—the Great Commission. Jesus commanded His apostles to make disciples. How are those disciples marked? They are not marked by going forward during an “invitation” at the end of religious meeting, nor are they marked by reciting a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Disciples are marked by being baptized according to the Great Commission. If those who present the Gospel are commanded to baptize those who desire to follow Christ, then it logically follows that those who truly desire to follow Christ are commanded to be baptized.

This logical connection is clearly demonstrated on the day of Pentecost. Those being convicted by the Holy Spirit asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37] What was the apostolic response? Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus for the remission of sins….” [Acts 2:38]

It is noteworthy that the mood of the verb “be baptized” is not optative, meaning that being baptized is merely a suggestion, the fulfillment of which is solely at the discretion of the hearer. Nor is the mood of the verb subjunctive, meaning that the speaker is hopeful the hearer will heed his suggestion. No, the mood is imperative. It is a command to be followed without qualification or hesitation. It should also be noted that the verb is in the singular, not the plural. So, although Peter was speaking to a large assembly of people, the command is for each individual to repent and be baptized.

Having established that baptism is a command, not merely a suggestion or an option on the part of believers, what is it’s mode?

To understand the mode, we must look at the word itself. The word “baptism” is not an English word, it did not come from into the English language from Anglo-Saxon or from the French. Both the noun “baptism” and the verb “baptize” came into the English language as transliterations [words carried over from a source language into a receptor language without being translated] of the Greek words BĂP-tēs-mă [the noun] and băp-TĒD-zō [the verb]. Why was this done? When the Bible began to be translated into English during the mid-sixteenth century, the words were transliterated rather than translated in order to avoid giving credence to the claims of the Anabaptists. This practice was continued by the men who translated the Geneva Bible, the men who translated the KJV, and every translation to the current time.

The fact of the matter is that whenever one reads a dictionary of Bible words, the basic and original meaning of baptism/baptize is to fully immerse or submerge the subject.† It has never been used in any Greek document dating back to Bible times to refer to merely sprinkling a few drops of water on a subject, or pouring a cup of water over the head of the subject. Those who argue for sprinkling or pouring as “valid forms” of baptism in fulfillment of Christ’s commands cannot use any Scripture to support their argument—only man-made traditions.

The second issue is the question of who is the proper subject for baptism. Interestingly, those who argue for unscriptural modes such as sprinkling or affusion, also argue for that infants are to legitimate subjects for their version of “baptism.”
Their reasoning is based on three fallacies. The first fallacy is that they equate baptism with circumcision; claiming that baptism is to the New Covenant what circumcision was to the Abrahamic covenant. I state this is a fallacy because nowhere in the New Testament can there be found any passage linking baptism with circumcision. Corollary to this heresy, it should also be noted that this who have adopted this fallacy with regard to baptism have also adopted the heresy of replacement theology.

Another indication as to why it is a fallacy to equate baptism with circumcision is that under the Abrahamic covenant, the only subjects for circumcision were males who were at least eight days old and were either in the direct lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or who were proselytes. Baptism, on the other hand, is for all who identify as followers of Christ—both male and female.

This also points to the second fallacy with regards to those who advocate for sprinkling or affusion as proper modes of baptism—that because baptism establishes a covenant relationship between the subject and God, infants are therefore to be considered as proper subjects for baptism. Again, they base their reasoning on a flawed application of Scripture. They can only find two passages of Scripture as justification for their position. The first passage is Matthew 19:13-15. The problem with their interpretation and application of this passage is that nowhere does it mention or even hint at baptism.

The second passage they use is Acts 16:33, which states that the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized immediately following Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. They claim that this has to also refer to infants. The problem with their interpretation and application is that it is based on an assumption from silence and not the text itself. In other words, they read their theological tradition into the text and claim that theological tradition justifies their interpretation rather than letting the text speak for itself. In technical terms, the practice is called eisegesis—reading into the text a meaning which is not found within the text itself.

When one reads the Scriptures dealing with baptism carefully and according to the plain meanings of the words, one finds that in order for baptism to be valid, the subject being baptized must be a believer.

The first evidence that baptism is for believers and not for infants is an inference drawn from Matthew 28:19-20, the “Great Commission.” In this passage, believers is commanded to make disciples from all nations. It also states that disciples are to be marked by baptizing them. The verb “make disciples” is in the imperative mood. The verb forms for “baptize” and “teach” are participles, making them an appositional construct to the main verb “make disciples.” In other words, the participles describe the process by which disciples are made—first by baptizing them and then instructing them in sound doctrine and practice.

The problem with any view which suggests that baptism is anything other than the immersion of professed believers is that those who promote such teachings aren’t really fulfilling the Great Commission in a manner which is obedient to the word of God.

The second evidence that the proper candidates and subjects for baptism are people who have come to conscious belief in Christ as Lord, is found in Acts 2:38. In this passage, baptism is yoked with repentance. Both verbs for “repent” and “be baptized” are in the imperative mood in the Greek—meaning that both are requirements for one’s testimony to being a recipient of God’s saving grace to be considered as valid.
The command to repent clearly indicates the hearer must be consciously able to understand what repentance means in order to obey. An infant clearly has no conscious ability to comprehend the meaning of the word repentance—let alone obey the command—so one can clearly draw a legitimate inference that baptism is not intended for infants.

This is a good place to end for now. We have looked at the design of baptism as to its necessity, the design as to its mode by immersion, and the design of who may be baptized. In the next part, we shall examine the design of baptism for when and where it should be administered, the design of who may administer baptism, and the purpose and effects of baptism.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

† See The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New King James Version (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2015), pp. 2338-2339. See also Stephen D. Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), pp. 88-90.

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