Baptism – Who, What, and When

I am eons short of being a theologian. I am not a professional anything. I teach a class sometimes, I’ve preached here and there, but never as a regular paid preacher, so I have a right to speak as a non-professional, a layman if you will.

I am very familiar with the several nuances about water baptism discussed ad nauseam by “sound” brothers in sermons, lectureships, journals, books, and blogs. I could recite most of the verbiage with the best of them if I so desired. In this article I’m not going there, I believe previous articles have stated the church of Christ’s traditional views and values well. What I propose is that we take a step back and see if we can learn from our mistakes.

It is clear that water baptism is in the Bible and that everyone who would follow Jesus should be baptized. It is also clear that baptism if for new believers. I have always loved the story of Philip and his encounter with an official from Ethiopia. Philip was a Jesus preacher. (Acts 8:5) He went to the city of Samara and preached Christ to them and he baptized those who believed. (Acts 8:12) So Philip had a track record of preaching Christ and baptizing those who believed the message.

A heavenly messenger instructed Philip to go in a certain direction and when he did he came upon the Secretary of the Treasury for Queen Candice, of Ethiopia. This distinguished gentleman was riding along in his chariot reading from Isaiah 53:7,8. Philip hopped on the chariot and beginning with that passage he “he told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:35) About the time Philip finished his gospel lesson they came to some water and the Ethiopian wanted to know if there was any reason why he couldn’t be baptized. They stopped, Philip baptized him, and Philip went on to his next preaching assignment. (Acts 8:38-40) What a grand story!

I’m pretty sure Philip was not a member of the church of Christ. Had he been, after the man asked about baptism he would have tried to “set up a study” at a later time. “Maybe when you are up this way again we can study baptism together, I don’t want you to make a mistake.” No, Philip just baptized him. That was exactly what Jesus had instructed disciples to do, make disciples and baptize them. Why isn’t the way Philip did it sufficient?

To this non-professional, it makes no sense to delve into a theological/doctrinal study with someone who is a brand new believer (or according to the traditional view, a lost person). In my view those studies are not for non Christians or new believers. It’s fine for brothers and sisters to discuss the many views about the efficacy of baptism, is it an ordinance or a sacrament? But for someone who just heard the good news about Jesus and has said he believes it’s time to baptize him, it is not a fitting time for a detailed Bible study. Anyone can say in two or three sentences what needs to be said, even assuming the candidate knows absolutely nothing about Christian baptism.

Jesus said as we disciples make disciples, we should baptize them. The Bible never says what words are to be spoken at the time of the actual baptism. To baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not mean even those words need to be said. Those words mean that we are to baptize in the authority of those names. In the same way to pray “in Jesus’ name” does not mean to say those  three words at the end of every prayer. And the Bible never says what a person is to know about baptism before he is baptized.

What the person about to be immersed believes about Jesus and his work for sinners is of utmost importance. He does not need to know everything the Bible says about water baptism before he is baptized. I told my small grandsons they should wash their hands before they eat, every time! I did not try to give them a course in biology, I just insisted that they wash their hands. If they did what I asked they had clean hands when they touched their food. A person who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ and is baptized will have a clean heart, without a course in Restoration theology.

Perhaps we should take a fresh look at the gospel. It is not a stated theory. It makes no command. It asks no questions. The good news about Jesus is an announcement! It is very, very GOOD NEWS! Our task is to announce the good news and leave the results to God. It is what Jesus has already accomplished for sinners that reconciles men to God. Jesus offered his faithful life of obedience, his body of flesh to be crucified for us, ungodly everyone, and he was raised out of death to immortality so that his life can be our life and our future can be eternally with him. Tell it here, tell it there, tell it everywhere and baptize those who believe.

For Jesus,


The Complicated Gospel

Could it be that well meaning people, like theologians, pastors, elders, preachers and teachers and others, have unintentionally made becoming a Christian much more difficult than it is? I think so.

The gospel of John says that Jesus’ own people rejected him, but some people received him. And it’s pretty simple.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

Read the passage above carefully and see what it says. You will see that the “who” did receive Him are the same “who” that believed in His name and they are the same ones He gave the right to become children of God. And it is that same group of “who’s” who were born again, not by human will, not by man’s ingenuity, but of God. They simply received him by faith which in another way of saying by believing.

In John chapter 11 is the story of the death of Jesus’ friend Lazaras and Jesus talking to Lazaras’ sister in her time of frustration and grief. Jesus made a radical statement.

“Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26) Well, do you believe this?

The thief on the cross, the woman at the well, the woman taken in adultery, Zacchaeus, the tax collector who begged God for mercy, and on and on, Jesus gives grace and mercy to those who, the best they know how, trust him to be their Lord.

To millions of rank sinners God has granted forgiveness of their sins and made them his own people. Millions who have never seen a gospel tract, seen a verse of the Bible, never been to Bible school, never heard a gospel sermon, never been baptized, never been confirmed, never joined a church, never had any rites or rituals, but in God’s mercy they learned enough about Jesus the Son of God that the best they knew who they trusted Him, they believed upon Him.

In the gospel that bears his name, John, the elder statesman said this in the 20th chapter.

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that were not recorded in this book, but these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you might have life in His name. (John 20:30-31)

It’s pretty simple. Believe and live or refuse to believe and perish.

This was the message Jesus gave to the most religious man in the town. Believe and live forever or go on in your unbelief and perish.

Sinners all, religious and not religious, moral, amoral or immoral, everyone needs Jesus.

Maybe we should talk more about him and less about everything else.

In Christ,


Female elders in Churches of Christ?

Click the link above and read the article….

In my view this church’s leaders have gone too far. I consider myself to be “progressive” (whatever that means) when it comes to how and why things are done in local congregations of Christians on Sunday mornings. While this is true, I am convinced of the biblical model of male headship, in the home and in the assembly with the brothers and sisters.

I’ll say it clearly, these brothers and sisters are wrong, they have gone too far in my view. However, most of the churches of Christ of Christ don’t go far enough when it comes to Christian women and their ministry to the body of believers. In the vast majority of coc congregations women may only teach a ladies class, can’t speak in the main assembly, are frowned upon when verbal in a mixed sex class, and are treated as second class citizens in many ways.

coc elders justify these narrow views and practices saying broadly that women cannot have authority over men. And, I agree with that statement and idea. It is almost comical if not so sad that “authority” is so misunderstood and misapplied.

How are these things related in any way to “authority”?

  1. Serving communion? How can “authority” be related to handing a person a tray with bread on it? It can’t be, plain and simple. And what if a sister read a passage of the Word of God? Is she trampling on male leadership? Hardly so.
  2. Praying? How does a female praying threaten the “authority” of the males in attendance, or the male leadership of the congregation? It doesn’t, period. Forbidding the prayer of any believer is not only unwise it is sinful in my view.
  3. Teaching a Bible lesson to a mixed sex audience? This is one of the biggies, but I don’t think a woman is trying to “rule over” or “usurp authority” from males, or male leadership. In most churches, the preacher is not an elder. (in my view most should be..). When the preacher delivers his Sunday morning lesson to the congregation is he exercising “authority” over the elders? Of course he isn’t! If he was his term as preaching minister would be a short term. There are many wonderfully gifted, spirit filled women, who could make wonderful contributions to the body if allowed. I am reminded of Peter’s words to the listening crowd in Acts 2:17,18 when he referenced the prophet Joel saying:

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

So I ask my friends in our coc churches simply, “Where are our daughters, where are our women”?

When women labored in the gospel with Paul was that only making snacks for the journey?

4. Singing a solo? I will not even dignify this absurdity with a comment.

5. Baptizing a believer? What sort of warped thinking concludes that only men, and in some churches, only select men can baptize someone in water? Again, this has absolutely no connection to “authority” over men.

In conclusion. It’s high time that we relegate rigid traditionalism to the junk heap of long ago and live up to our only spoken creeds. “No book but the Bible, No creed but Christ, and Christians only”. I believe that some of our traditionalism is what really has “authority” in many congregations, rather than the words of Holy Scripture.

Many of us are off the rail, imposing on others unscriptural rules about things we do on Sunday. I suppose that is for another time.

Dec 29,2020

I Choose Joy, You Can Too

In the midst of this global pandemic not many people are happy, and for good reason. Almost nobody wants to stay at home day after day, no working, no eating at your favorite place, no trips to the gym… Ugh…

I am certainly not happy about this episode but I am learning to be content. Complaining, hand-ringing, blaming, worrying, and other negative responses do nothing to change the situation at hand. There is a far better alternative. Choose JOY!

Happiness is at best fleeting because it depends on “happenings”. The happiest person you know can go from super happy to deep depression in moments. Answering one phone call, seeing one news story on TV, or one bad move in traffic kicks happiness to the street.

Joy, is not dependent on circumstances. Joy is given to combat those less than happy circumstances. In sickness, in poverty, in disappointment, in persecution, in being rejected by someone you love, in business failure…. You fill in the blanks from the story of your life. No circumstance can squash joy.

The ancient words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians at Philippi concerning this topic can inform us about how to live in the face of dire circumstances today and tomorrow.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

It is interesting that the great apostle penned these hopeful words from his prison cell in Rome to Christians who lived in a city where he had been beaten and imprisoned on a previous visit. His letter was to encourage and equip people he loved and to help guard them from false teaching, false gods, and discouragement.

Joy is a choice! You can decide right now where you sit or stand to experience joy in the Lord. Paul begins this section of his letter to his friends with a command, “Rejoice in the Lord always“. Joy is not tied to the happenings of every day life, but is only found in our confidence and trust in our Lord. God is saying right now to me, and to you, “Rejoice in me”, the question is will we obey? Will we follow our natural inclination and express our frustrations with loud complaining when things don’t go our way? Or, will we try a new path by becoming known for our “reasonableness“? Perhaps a better translation is “gentleness”. When disappointment rears it’s ugly head will we respond calmly? Or quickly and loudly state our disappointment in no uncertain terms? We do have a choice…

God is with us! Paul said it this way, “The Lord is at hand“. If you are a faith-follower of Jesus God lives in you every moment of every day. The Holy Spirit is God in you all the time. And even if you are not a Christian, the Lord is near you too. There is no place you can go that God is not there, He is as close as He can be waiting for you to embrace Him in simple trust.

God’s constant presence should produce in us boldness in the face of trouble. Whatever circumstances comes at us “the Lord is at hand“. If we train ourselves to live moment by moment in the reality of God’s presence with us life will take on a new luster and fear will flee.

God has given us some homework! In the passage above God tells us exactly what to do and not to do to get in on this Joy thing.
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Have a measured response to trouble. Don’t be anxious! Don’t worry! Don’t overthink your circumstances. Recently my wife informed me that a sizable portion of our retirement income would no longer be coming in the mail due to a technicality and a contract change. When she finished telling me the news in detail I said to her, “I’ll tell you something I’m not going to do”. “What?” she replied. “Worry” was my answer. And she agreed that we live in the presence and power of the almighty and we will simply trust him. A couple of days later Carol called me to give me the exciting news that the investment company had reversed it’s decision and our money will keep coming on time. This time I got it right. (disclaimer: sometimes I fret a while first….)

Tell God about your troubles. Nothing is excluded, if it bothers you God is interested and concerned. In “everything” is pretty inclusive, nothing is left out. This instruction to pray is a great lesson. There are three components to Paul’s command about going to God with our cares.

  1. Pray. Praying is simply asking. All through the Bible prayers are always asking and the answer is always receiving. Just tell God what you want.
  2. Supplication. This is an interesting biblical word that is always tied to asking God, prayer, but it is more about the disposition of the one who is praying. It suggests recognizing the majesty of our sovereign God and coming to ask in humility. God is God I am not. I am coming to God asking for help but not as one who is entitled as a spoiled child would ask.
  3. Thanksgiving. Giving thanks is always good but it is not prayer. Many times in scripture thanksgiving accompanies prayer but it is not prayer. Prayer is asking. Giving God our thanks is not asking but acknowledging His goodness and grace toward us.

It is my habit to begin every prayer, both public and private, by giving God thanks for all that I am and what I have been given by his open grace filled hand. When trouble comes, and it will, simply ask God, be humble as you ask, and be thankful for what you have and what God has already done for you and what He will do in the future.

God is at work….all the time! If or when we follow God’s prescription for anxiety and despair something wonderful happens. The peace of God that we humans are not equipped to even understand will “guard” our hearts and our “minds”. Wow, what a tremendous promise from God. How often will this work? Every time we do what God says to do.

Our hearts and our minds are guarded! Doubt? No, you can’t come in, you are not welcome. Worry? No admittance. You are not welcome either. What a beautiful promise God has given to us.

Rejoice! This is God’s formula for ongoing joy for everyday, in every circumstance living.

For your joy,