Sunday, February 22, 2009
What follows below is a reproduction of David Lipscomb's article "Rebaptism Reviewed." The article is a response to "Brother Chism" who defended rebaptism. This is one of Lipscomb's fullest discussions of the subject. He takes us on a tour of the examples of baptism in the Book of Acts following a thorough examination of Acts 2.38 and the Great Commission. I think this article is significant enough to simply reproduce it in toto and Lipscomb explain the rational (exegetical and theological) for rejecting rebaptism.
Gospel Advocate, December 12, 1907, pp. 992- 793
I am glad to have this article from Brother Chism. He presents the points in a clear and tangible form so they can be understood. I believe the question ought to and can be settled with all who desire to follow the will of the Lord and are willing to study and abide by his teachings.
Some object to the name “rebaptism.” It is a reimmersion. The twelve at Ephesus were rebaptized, I believe persons ought to be rebaptized sometimes, and I call it “rebaptism.” I am glad of Brother Chism’s article because it places the practice on a ground that does not savor of infidelity. I feel shocked when professed Christians ask where the Bible says we must be baptized to obey God. It shows how little they know the Bible or how ready they are to sacrifice the fundamental principles of the Bible to sustain a pet theory or a party.
Brother Chism justifies the rebaptism practice on the ground that “for the remission of sins” is in the sentence, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” is part of the command, and this seems to be the chief ground on which he bases the practice. I believe “into” is preferable to “for,” but he seems to prefer “for.” But if “eis” or “for” here is a part of the command, what becomes of the argument that it means “in order to obtain,” that Brother Chism and others make on the design of baptism with the sects? If it is a reward for obedience to the command, it cannot be a part of the command. That argument or his position is all wrong. It cannot be at once a part of the command and a reward for obedience to the command. Webster defines “for:” “the antecedent cause or occasion of an action; the motive or inducement leading to an action.” It cannot be the antecedent cause of an action and the action itself. It cannot be the promise as a result of the obedience and the obedience itself. It is a promise to lead to obedience, and not the obedience itself. I believe it should be “into” indicating a result flowing from the act, so only indirectly a motive leading to it. There is certainly nothing in the sentence that demands it should be part of the command.
If there is uncertainty about it, let us test in another safe way. Let us interpret it by other similar scriptures. Take Acts 3:19: “Repent ye therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted from the presence of the Lord.” No one would say “that your sins may be blotted out” is a part of the command. It is a result to which obedience to the command leads. It is the same as “for remission of sins” in Acts 2:38. “That your sins may be blotted out,” or remitted, or forgiven, mean the same. The forgiveness is the act of God, and man cannot obey or do God’s part in any work. He can only “repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ;” and leave God to forgive his sins when has complied with God’s requirements.
These suggestions are a full reply to Brother Chism’s points. But I examine further. He says the command, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” is the exact equivalent of the commission given by the Lord. This is wrong. It is the application of that general law to one special case, and it is a mistake to interpret and restrict the general law by one special application of it. Numbers of our rebaptist friends ignore the commission altogether and find the law only in this application of it. (Acts 2:28). God first gave the law and then the application of it. Brother Chism reverses God’s order, passes by the general law, begins with one special application of it, and then restricts the law to this one application. This is as if a lawyer were to find a man tried for stealing a horse. The general law against stealing is applied by the court to this one of horse stealing, and the lawyer ever afterwards restricts the law against stealing to this one case and insists that the law is not violated unless a horse is stolen. Brother Chism finds the first application of the law was to sinners guilty of the blood of the Son of God, and in their guilt they ask if pardon is possible, and they are told: “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and your sins shall be remitted.” To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be baptized as Christ directs – “into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” for in them remission of sins, which they so earnestly sought, would be found. But is that the only blessing that is to be found in these names that can or should move men to seek God?
But Acts 2:38 is the commission applied to that particular case. Mark (16:15,16) says: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” Is “shall be saved” a part of the command in this case? Is it an obligation imposed upon man? Does not the obligation on man end with being baptized, and is not his being saved the work of God? Is it not a promise to man to encourage him, in his weakness and infirmity, to believe and be baptized? Brother Chism will not contradict this. Does not “be saved” correspond exactly to “for [or into”] the remission of sins?” (Acts 2:38) There is no command in remission of sins to men, but a promise of what God will do.
The commission by Matthew is: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.” This is applied in Acts 2:38 to the condition of those present. The people were taught, believed, were commanded to be baptized in the name of Christ, into the remission of sins. To be baptized in the name of Christ is to be baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” because that is the only baptism Christ authorized. When they are baptized into these names, they are baptized into the remission of sins. Into these names, embracing remission of sins in common with all spiritual blessings, are results flowing from the obedience and constitute no part of obedience. These different promises mean the same and cannot be a part of the obedience.
I think Brother Chism must agree to these points so far, and own “for remission” is a promise to lead to obedience. It is not the only promise. Other promises in Christ may lead as well as this one.
We both agree that remission of sins is a motive to lead to obedience. He seems to think it is the only motive, or at least the leading and essential motive to lead to baptism, and without this as the leading and controlling motive the baptism is not acceptable to God. I do not believe this. I believe there is one motive that in all service to God, without which no service is acceptable to him. That is, we must do the service in the name of Jesus, the Lord. “Whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Gal. 3:17) All Jesus did in heaven and on earth was done to please his Father. Nothing can be done in his name that is not controlled by the same desire. The law was: Be baptized “into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is frequently expressed by “in” or “into” “the name of the Lord Jesus.” To be in one of these names or persons is to be in all. In Christ are many blessings: no human being can know all. God has revealed a few that appeal to our conditions here. Some blessings appeal to one person, another to another, owing to the conditions of the persons. Acts 2:38 is not the only application of this commission to the conditions of man.
Take the case of the Samaritans. They had been wicked: the Jews despised them and refused to let them worship with them; but despite their surroundings, they were willing to obey God. The heart of the Almighty is very tender toward those unfortunately situated but willing to obey him. Those who fail to see this are ill fitted to understand and obey God. God sent his servant to the Samaritans. “When they believed Philip preaching good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” In the name of Jesus remission of sins was enjoyed but in his name and kingdom are many other precious blessings.
Then there is the Ethiopian eunuch. He was a God-fearing man. He hade come several hundred miles to worship God according to his appointments. He was studying God’s word. God was so well pleased with him that he sent his servant to teach him the way of the Lord more perfectly. He preached Jesus to him. He asked and was baptized into Christ. I do not think “for remission of sins” was made prominent in this conversion, because he was serving God according to the best light he had and was guilty of no great sin.
Then Cornelius was a Gentile, a good man according to the light he had. He worshiped God. Peter said he feared God and worked righteousness; that commended him to the favor of God, who sent his angel to him. His alms and his prayers were treasured as a memorial before God. Peter told him he was out of Christ, out of God, and he was “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Was much stress laid on “the remission of sins” in this case? He was baptized in the name of Christ, to obey God. Brother Chism, if you had been there, could you have objected to receiving Cornelius unless “remission of sins” was the present and controlling motive in his baptism? The very same Peter that told the bloody handed murderers to be baptized “for remission of sins” tells Cornelius to be baptized “in the name of Jesus Christ,” and said nothing of remission of sins. Why the difference?
Then those at Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-7) They were serving God according to the best light they had, had been baptized into John’s baptism, “for the remission of sins.” They had not learned that John’s baptism had been superseded by baptism into the name of Christ. When they heard these things, “they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.”
No emphasis was laid on “for remission” in these cases, but great emphasis on “into the name of the Lord Jesus,” as prescribed by the commission. The law was applied to suit the condition of the person. The apostles did not believe that stealing a horse was the only stealing that could be done nor that remission of sins is the only motive to lead men to obey God. Why are not all these applications of the case as much for our instruction as Acts 2:38? Why is not the command to be baptized into Christ, into the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, as much the command of God as “for remission of sins?” Why is it not as important that men understand baptism is into Christ as to understand it is for the remission of sins? If we follow the Bible up, we find that in the writings to the churches and to Christians the emphasis is laid on having been baptized into Christ, having put on Christ, and living, dying and being raised in Christ.
There are now cases corresponding in state to these cases of conversion in Acts. I could mention many. The girl mentioned by Brother Holt that had likely, like Timothy, known the Scriptures from a child, wished to obey Christ, but not oppressed with the guilt of sin, she had not studied that point. Would the Father reject her because she wanted to follow Christ in her innocency [sic] and her youth?
While man is to love and trust God because God is good and blesses those that do his will, the idea that we must know what we are to get for and in each service, and that our service is acceptable only as we understand and render the obedience for the blessings we are to get, is repulsive to God. Abraham was the great model of faith for all future generations of the world. He followed God from his father’s home not knowing whither he went or what he would receive. In the service that was most pleasing to God, the offering of his son as a sacrifice, which secured the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Abraham obeyed without a promise whether any blessing would be received. The obedience seemed to defeat the promise that God would of his son make a mighty nation. The anti-type of Abraham’s offering of his son was God offered his only Son to die for the world. This is continually held up as the great example given to man to follow. It places the truth beyond all controversy that God is pleased with the service that is rendered him at great sacrifice, from love of him, without any promise of blessing. Job said: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” That is the service God loves. We have other thoughts along this line we wish to offer.