What Must the Church of Christ Do to be Saved?




The following is a post by Jay Guin on his blog, One in Jesus. I do not know Jay Guin personally. Based on his blog, I believe that he and I may some differences of opinion on some other the specific details of our faith. But one thing in particular that we are in complete agreement on is the necessity to ask difficult questions and challenge our beliefs. To that end, his writings have a been a tremendous blessing for me. You can read the original blog here.

We’re working our way through Leroy Garrett’s book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!

Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”

The comments in this series have largely focused on the baptism question — which is inevitable given that Garrett is urging us to fellowship denominations other than the Churches of Christ. The comments follow very much along the traditional lines, and I’d urge us to think of the question in some different ways. After all, people have long ago stopped listening to the traditional arguments — on both sides.

First, many denominations baptize believers by immersion for the remission of sins. We are not alone in this respect at all.

The independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, of course, share our baptismal doctrine and practices — and yet many treat them as damned in their sins.

The Roman Catholics often baptize adult converts by immersion for the remission of sins, and they have always done this — although not always uniformly. European cathedrals typically have a separate baptistry that is designed for immersion. Recently, many (not all) American cathedrals have built baptistries for immersion.

The Eastern Orthodox have always baptized adult converts by immersion or dipping — except they do it three times — and theirs is also for the remission of sins.

All Baptists baptize by immersion, and some do so for a remission of sins. Yes, really. I know some personally. Not every pastor follows the denominational teaching and not every Baptist denomination adheres to Zwinglian teaching (the teaching that baptism is symbolic of grace previously received traces back to Zwingli).

The Wikipedia says,

Baptism by submersion is also practiced by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), although the faith does not suggest rebaptism of those who have undergone a different Christian baptism tradition. …

Seventh-day Adventists believe that “Baptism symbolizes dying to self  and coming alive in Jesus.” They practice full immersion baptism.

Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming  pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism  memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward  personal sign or testimony that the person’s sins have already been  washed away by the cross of Christ.

Also listed as practicing baptism by immersion are Christadelphians, Trinitarian Pentecostals, and various “Holiness” groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, and Oneness Pentecostals. The Plymouth Brethren baptize believers by immersion but take a position similar to the Southern Baptists as to its effect. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is also immersionist.

For denominations outside the Reformed/Calvinist tradition, baptism is almost always for the remissions of sins.

Now, if all these groups practice baptism of believers by immersion and most do so for the remission of sins, why don’t we treat any of them as part of “us”? — unless, of course, we are rank sectarians who believe that only those in the Churches of Christ are saved?

If we’re not a denomination and, rather, simply congregations of the church of Christ universal, why don’t we consider other churches that immerse for a remission of sins part of “us”? Indeed, why act as though we have a patent on correct baptismal theology and practice and no one else does it the way we do?

It seems that we’re looking for ways to damn all others. After all, we ignore all evidence to the contrary and we certainly have a bad habit of exaggerating the errors of other denominations while excusing our own. Read the comments in this series, if you doubt me. And that tendency sure seems to evidence a desire to be the exclusive place of salvation.

Oh, and there are lots of our former members who left the Churches of Christ and now worship as part of another denomination. They have perfectly good baptisms, too — by any standard. Are they damned? If a member of the Churches of Christ joins an instrumental Christian Church, is his baptism canceled?

Now I readily admit that many of those other denominations have errors in their teachings and practices. And we’ll take that question up shortly. But can we not at least admit that there are those in the denominations with baptisms that are just as good as ours? And that their converts come out of the baptistry 100%, totally, utterly saved?