When I gave the address entitled "My four Concerns for the Discipling Movement" on July 19, 1987 in Atlanta, one of those concerns was the issue of rebaptism. Prior to September 1986, this didn't appear to be a major problem. However, things began to change in October 1986 with the "rebaptism" of Gloria Baird, the wife of A1 Baird (one of the Boston elders). In the spring of 1987 I began hearing of rebaptism of people who had been converted in Boston in previous years. The reasons for these rebaptisms appeared to stem from a misunderstanding of Matthew 28:18-20, repentance and other related issues. However, the "reconstructions" of 1987 began to fuel the wave of rebaptisms. The purpose of this section is to provide information concerning the Boston Movement's teachings and practices in the area of baptism.
Roger Lamb, who served as one of the elders in the Chicago Church of Christ, moved to Boston and now serves as editor of the bulletin. He was baptized in September 1987 while serving as an elder at Chicago. Because an elder cannot be a new convert, he questioned what he should do since he was now a Christian for the first time in his life. The following quote is from a speech entitled "Women Strong in the Lord," which Roger Lamb delivered at the 1987 Chicago Women's Equipping Workshop:
I shared with our people just recently -- the staff, with the Bible Talk leaders at the workshop and with all the people who moved into the church last Sunday night. After the Boston seminar, Marcia and myself both were baptized into Christ. Now, I don't have time to go into all the details, but most of you know this already. I've already told it in Cincinnati and in Indianapolis and in several other places.
I was baptized at 9 1/2. And I thought because my baptism was so different than anybody else's--I saw some people doing it for the wrong reasons--that mine was okay. I remembered it very clearly. But at 9 1/2, I did not have an understanding of my sinful nature. And, even according to my wife, I didn't really conquer a lot of things in my sinful nature until the last couple of years. And then it dawned on me my youngest son is 9 1/2. You see, I was so thick headed it took God showing me my own boy, who is really like I was as a kid at 9 1/2. He loves God and has a great heart, really spiritual sensitive, but, no way on God's earth would I let him be baptized. He doesn't understand his sinful nature. He's not ready.
Well, that's not really one thing I am real proud of. That it took me this long to figure that out. I sat some people down in Boston and said, 'Okay, I feel good about my baptism, but let me tell you. You know me the best. Kip, Marty, Mark Mancini, now you tell me. Challenge me on it. Let's look in the scriptures.' Boy, I had an interesting seminar. Marcia was going through the same thing. We were both baptized Monday after the seminar. Praise God. Praise God. Boy, am I glad. I am so thankful for those people who love me enough to tell me the truth.
I submit that to you. I didn't have to tell you that. In fact, years ago we would never have told anybody that. Right? I submit that to you because I trust you for one thing and because I think you need to know. Okay? We need to be able to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ and the truth. What is the truth? I trust the truth. I trust God. I trust the Lord. I trust he is taking care of us. That's submission.
I told Kip, I told Marty and Ben, I said, 'Okay, if this means I shouldn't be an elder, okay.' 'Not a recent convert.' Kip and Marry actually, independently, said exactly the same thing. They said, 'You are not a recent convert.' You see, about ten years ago they both were there when I really died to myself and made Jesus Lord of my life. He had not been Lord of my life. I've been trying to make him Lord of my life ever since then. That explains to me how God has done some things in my life. God is patient with me. I am glad I am still his. I am thankful. And I can understand now how God uses some of these folks, you know, who know part of the truth. We need to get to them, folks, and challenge them if they really do believe Jesus is Lord and teach them the rest. Okay? But they both said, 'No, you're not a recent convert. You became a disciple ten years ago. Eleven. But now you're understanding, and you thought I had even run it by some people before, but now you are understanding you're convicted and you've been baptized into Christ.' They said, 'We have no problem with it at all.'
In another speech, "Baptize Disciples," given at the Fall 1987 (September 5, 1987) Chicago Leadership Workshop, Roger Lamb gave additional insights into his beliefs and practices.
I left the Lord with my heart when I was a youth minister in Houston, Texas. My marriage deteriorated; it got worse and worse. I've shared about that openly, but I never connected it. I ruined our marriage for seven years; I killed it. I was convicted at a Marriage Retreat in Chicago in December of 1975. I started making changes; I started trying to love Marcia deeply and I realized what I had done to her. It was my sin. I almost left the ministry, but I had already raised the support for a campus minister. God sent Kip McKean. He embarrassed me into going to a Florida Evangelism Seminar in 1976 before he ever moved up. The very first speech by Chuck Lucas was about Christians and particularly preachers who were prideful, lazy, compromising the gospel, not evangelistic, uncommitted. I thought somebody had sent him a video of my life. I was cut. No lie, when I walked into that seminar and I saw Chuck and I saw what was going on, my first reaction was, 'I want to be him. I want to do that.' 'Everything they do is for men to see, love to take the place of honor at banquets, the most important seats in the synagogue, love to be greeted in the marketplace, to have men call them rabbi.' I longed at that seminar for people to know who I was. Because I saw all these committed Christians so fired up, and none of them knew who I was. No reason to. I had a sinful heart. I was so convicted and cut. I came home, got up at church and preached on 2 Timothy 1:7, 'God has not given us a spirit of timidity but the spirit of power, love and self-control.' I repent. I am wrong and I expect you to also.
That fall, we had a retreat. I will never forget it. It changed my life. I think it helped complete my repentance in terms of the initial repentance. I had the Sunday morning service after this thing on 'I am resolved, no longer to linger; charmed by the world's delight. Things that are higher, things that are nobler; these have allured my sight.' I said, 'Folks, we either have Jesus on the throne of our hearts, he's not in our life at all; or he's just in a bedroom and we bring him out when we want to talk to him.' That's where I've been. I believe from the scriptures and from what I can recall from these brothers, Marcia confirms. That was the point at which I made my lordship decision and became a disciple. You see, Jesus said you baptize disciples. I never put that together. I hadn't been a disciple all that time. I have tried to be a disciple for the last 10 or 11 years. God has blessed me in it. It has been awkward doing it on my own power at different times. I think he has even given me power and insight that I don't understand because he needed to use me for the kingdom. That confused me for awhile. Then somebody pointed out, 'Yeah, Roger, God used Nebuchadnezzar too.' That doesn't mean you are right with God. God uses all the nations. God uses all the kingdoms in his plan.
Roger Lamb's "rebaptism" in September 1987 raises more questions than whether or not he was a new convert and hence needed to resign as an elder. He admitted he wasn't a disciple when he was baptized and didn't know that he must be one in order for his baptism to be valid. Because he wasn't a "disciple" when he was baptized at 91/2, his baptism wasn't valid and he had never become a Christian. If Roger Lamb didn't understand what a person must know in order to be baptized, did any of those that he had taught prior to September 1987 become Christians? His lack of knowledge and understanding that one must "be a disciple" before baptism in order for the baptism to be valid is seen in two statements he wrote prior to his rebaptism:
Jesus' Liberty--Why would people of such a variety of races, cultures, economic levels, and ages be so excited about Jesus' love and life? Because they have received his liberty. 'Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.' (Romans 8:1) We are simply a group of sinners who have admitted our guilt, repented of our sins, been baptized into Christ and been washed by the blood of his sacrifice. We have been liberated! We are set free from guilt, fear, past, etc. And now as Jesus has told all of us, when we are born again and set free, we become the church--the body of Christ. He lives in us and enables us to show his love, live his life and share his liberty! We all need to see Jesus. (Roger Lamb, Chicago Fire, "Bring Your Neighbor Day in Chicago," March 22, 1987.)
I have been touched by these truths: God gives grace to those who humble themselves, admit they are lost in sin, repent of their sins and die to themselves in baptism--raised to walk a new life. Then God's grace is with those disciples who continue to humble themselves by admitting their sins, faults and failures. The evidence of God's grace cannot be held back--it will have the effect God desires. And God wants more people to know his grace. Let us humble ourselves and be challenged by the example of the Kingston church and their leaders. (Roger Lamb, Chicago Fire, April 5, 1987.)
Observe that nothing is said about the necessity of being a disciple before baptism. The lack of teaching about being a disciple before baptism confirms his belief that he didn't know the "necessary truth" before his baptism in September 1987.
Roger and his wife taught and converted a couple (John and Nancy Mannel) in 1976 in Charleston, Illinois, where Roger served as the full-time evangelist. On November 22, 1987, John Mannel was appointed to be an elder (shepherd) in Chicago. Roger Lamb wrote an article on November 22, 1987 in the Chicago Fire telling of John's background and how Marcia and Roger had taught his wife and him. As you read the article, you assume John's baptism into Christ took place 11 years ago when they studied together. However, the truth is that John was baptized again less than 90 days prior to his appointment as an elder. Since becoming a Christian is such an important event in one's life, why did Roger Lamb not even mention it in the article, but allowed the readers to assume John's "true baptism" took place 11 years ago! Mentioning John's rebaptism would have raised the "new convert" issue.
In September 1987 while Roger Lamb was wrestling with being baptized, he asked his wife (Marcia) for her opinion. Roger reports that Marcia said:
Actually I don't think you've been living like a Christian till the past few years anyway. (1987 Chicago Leadership Workshop, "Baptize Disciples.")
It can't be determined how far back a "few years" goes; however, Roger Lamb didn't differ with his wife's evaluation. On the same tape, he described Marcia and himself as being "unredeemed" sinners.
Let me tell you what's happened. I've been made new. I've had energy I haven't had; I've had insight I haven't had. The moodiness hadn't been there. Hadn't even been a temptation this week. Praise God. The marriage is brand new. Hey, we were having some serious problems the week before we went to Boston. No wonder. Two sinners here trying to love each other. Unredeemed dogs. My wife has changed. I'm praising God. I love her more than I've ever loved her.
How can he describe himself as one who has "been made new, "has more "energy and insight," and has "a brand new marriage" but still not be a new convert at his baptism?
In the same speech, "Baptize Disciples," Roger Lamb spoke of the future of the Chicago church and its leadership:
You think this church has been blessed? Wait till it has all Christians as Leaders ... You know what's gonna happen after two weeks? We're gonna know that the leadership in this church are Christians.
When the Bible student listens carefully to what Roger Lamb teaches about his baptism in light of Scripture, a number of questions are raised. Using Roger Lamb's own words, the following statement would describe his situation: In 1977 he died to self, made Jesus Lord of his life, completed his repentance (in terms of initial repentance), became a disciple; but, in reality, he was unredeemed, not a Christian and had not been living like a Christian for the past few years. However, when he was baptized by Kip in September 1987, he received the Spirit of God for the first time, was now a Christian, had been made new and could continue to be an elder in the Chicago church since he was not considered a recent convert!
The New Testament teaches one is born again (converted)by the water and the spirit (John 3:1-5). It is in baptism that one unites with the death of Christ (i.e., the benefits of His death) and experiences his own death (Romans 6:3-4), and, hence, is freed from the guilt and power of sin (Romans 6:7). To believe one has become a disciple, made his Lordship decision, completed his repentance without a union with Christ in baptism is foreign to the New Testament. It is even more foreign to New Testament teaching to say that one is not a new convert after baptism and to claim "convert" status ten years prior to his baptism. One would have to conclude that Roger Lamb, along with the Boston Movement leaders, had to twist what had previously been taught to fit their situation. Question: Does practice determine the use of Scripture or does Scripture determine practice?
Why would Roger Lamb's trusted co-workers (Marty Fuqua, Mark Mancini and Kip McKean) reason the way they did about Roger's not needing to resign as an elder because he was not a new convert in spite of his recent baptism? If these co-workers reasoned that he was indeed a new convert and should resign as an elder, the same advice would have to be given to Al Baird (Boston elder). Al Baird was "baptized again" in April of the same year (1987). Al Baird's "rebaptism" was not public knowledge until at least 10 months later, and it was never announced in the bulletin or publicly at a church gathering in Boston until some time in 1988. In fact, Al Baird taught a class at the 1987 Boston World Missions Seminar entitled "Go Baptize Disciples Only" and discussed the rebaptism issue, but NEVER mentioned his rebaptism which had taken place six months earlier. It would have been natural for him to "share from his life" when he taught this class since he commented that one should be willing to examine his baptism:
That means I can't be afraid to examine anything--there is nothing so sacred that I can't question it, including my own baptism. And that tends to be the most touchy thing we have because that is the thing that gets to the heart and core of our security.
On May 17, 1989, Al Baird was interviewed on WRKO radio station in Boston where the subject of his rebaptism was discussed. Even though it will be shown later in this section that Kip McKean declared that no one has been rebaptized since there is only one baptism, Al Baird stated, "I was rebaptized in April of 1987." Furthermore, Al Baird claimed that his rebaptism was not "hidden." Even though Al Baird agreed that true life in Christ began with his baptism, he didn't believe the teaching of 1 Timothy 3 in reference to the elder not being a new convert applied in his situation.
It is also interesting to observe that in the radio interview Al Baird stated he had been "rebaptized" but in September 1987 in his class on "Go and Baptize Disciples Only" he taught there was no such thing as rebaptism. In this class he stated:
Now you may ask, 'Why do we have as many quote rebaptisms as we do. Number one, I don't think there is any such thing as rebaptism. There is only one baptism.
In a lesson entitled "Perfectly United," delivered at the 1987Women's Retreat in Boston, Kip McKean set forth his beliefs about baptism.
For a long time in the church of Christ and those that were raised in it (I appreciate that background and heritage and you need to) have been taught, dare we say, the five point plan of salvation--hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized. Though I believe in that because I believe in the word of God, I believe an essential element has not been emphasized in the area of repentance. In fact, it was the primary area that Jesus emphasized about this baptism. In Matthew 28:19 when Jesus appeared to the eleven on the Mount before he ascended, he said, 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them (there they are) baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy spirit and teaching them to obey my Father's commands.' I really believe, sisters, we need to get it on straight who is a candidate for baptism. It is the individual who is a disciple. You say, 'Well now, brother that's not been taught through the years so often in the church of Christ.' What does the book say? You say, 'Well, now, brother, we didn't even use that terminology back in the early days at Crossroads.' What does the book say? I think we also need to certainly appreciate our heritage without question and roots in the Lord's church, the church of Christ. But I think we also need to appreciate our roots in the Crossroads church. But you've got to understand that we are a process of restoration. The Holy Spirit is working and it is not that news truths are being revealed, but the old truths are becoming clearer. There is a difference. Jesus said, 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them.'
A lot of people in the 'church of Christ' say, 'Well, we can't get along with you folks because your methodology is different.' That's the word. Listen, I am seeing there is a lot more than methodology that is different. There has become an innate doctrinal difference but they don't recognize it because it looks like a methodology. Our working with people to baptism and counting the cost, they think is a methodology. I think not. It is a scriptural imperative. If it is a scriptural imperative, then it is not a humanistic methodology; it is a command that we must obey. Then, the Bible says that after they are baptized (and you only baptize disciples), then you are to teach them to obey everything the Lord has commanded. You see, I think we've got to really get it on straight right here. Why do people who come into our fellowships have so much struggle when they come on in? Is it because we are just weird acting? We expect too much? Or we've added things to the scriptures? I think not. I think they are uncomfortable when they come on in because they have never been disciples in the first place. You see what happens is after a period of weeks and months, maybe even years, in our fellowship they get hammered around enough they eventually become disciples, but just for the first time have they become disciples. They think, 'Well, I'm still okay because I was baptized to get saved many years ago.' Let me tell you something, if you have struggled to come into our fellowships, and even now you're high powered sister, I praise God that you are a disciple. But all the commitment in the world, and even being a disciple, does not save you. You must respond to Jesus with the commitment of a disciple and then and only then can you be baptized to be saved. A lot of people ask questions, 'Why have some of the sisters been rebaptized?' Let me tell you something. No one has been rebaptized around here. Not a single person has been rebaptized around here. I only believe in the one baptism. You take people like Laurie or Diane Brown. Hey, I respect their commitment, I respect their marriages. I respect who they are. I love them to death. They are great friends. But, you see what happens. They came into the church and they started to understand what it took to be a disciple and they came to that commitment and then they started teach other people they had to come to that commitment too and then they baptized these people. Then they said, 'Hold it, I didn't exactly do that.' I really believe one of the things we've got to get on straight, we've got to be perfectly united in mind and thought about who is a Christian and who is not and not be afraid of the criticism when it will come.
It is true that it wasn't taught "in so many words" in Gainesville that one had to be a disciple before baptism since his teacher Chuck Lucas stated in 1981 that "Faith, repentance and confession are essential prerequisites of baptism for the forgiveness of sins," (Charles Lucas, "An Open Letter to the Brotherhood of Churches of Christ," Firm Foundation, November 17, 1981.)
Since the Boston Movement teaches that one must be a disciple before baptism in order for his baptism to, be valid, it should be no surprise to learn that one of its leading evangelists stated that the Bible faculty of Abilene Christian University (a Christian university staffed by members of the church of Christ) are not disciples, Christians or saved.
My professors, I was impressed for awhile with the teaching, you know, learning Greek and all that stuff. I felt sort of vulnerable there. I didn't understand because of all the people at least I came in contact with there was only one teacher that I knew who was out there knocking doors and getting in Bible studies and trying to lead the lost there to Jesus. I didn't understand that. That confused me. Do you understand? That was confusing. I am not confused anymore. It all makes sense. They were not disciples! (Crowd gives a loud amen, JJ.) They were not Christians! They were not saved according to the Bible. You know, I don't really look down on those people. I don't believe they were even instructed right. You know I was really puzzled. (Tom Brown, San Diego Conference, "What Kind of Man Is This?" January 7, 1988.)
Elena McKean (Kip McKean's wife) has an attitude similar to Tom Brown's concerning baptism and the church of Christ. In the December 20, 1987 issue of the Boston Bulletin, she wrote an article entitled "Satan Masquerades As An Angel:"
Too few churches call people to make the decision to be disciples at baptism (Matthew 28:19). Jesus says if you have not done this, your baptism is invalid. Many people even in the 'church of Christ' are deceived. Only baptized disciples will g willing to go anywhere, do anything, and give up everything for the cause of winning the world for a few of the lies Satan spread about the critical area of salvation.
Kip McKean's teaching on baptism explains why so many members of the church of Christ who join the Boston Movement are baptized again. It needs to be observed that many leaders who were active in the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville in the late 1970's and early 1980's have been baptized again. A question for the reader to ponder is: If the proper teaching on being a disciple before baptism wasn't taught in mainline churches of Christ, wasn't taught "in so many words" at Gainesville, and wasn't listed as a prerequisite by Chuck Lucas (Kip's teacher and discipler), how could Kip have known this teaching before he was baptized? (This question assumes that Kip was never rebaptized after his conversion in Gainesville. If he has, it has never been made public.)
It is hard to pinpoint the time in the Boston Movement when the emphasis on being a disciple before baptism began to be taught and stressed. It is my opinion that it began in the fall of 1986, which accounts for so many rebaptisms in 1987-1988. Prior to 1986, Kip McKean didn't stress this need, nor did he teach one had to be a disciple before baptism. In a sermon delivered at the Boston Church of Christ on January 20, 1985 entitled "Our Needs," Kip McKean spoke of what a person must know or do in order to become a Christian. In the two places in the sermon where he spoke of what a person must do in order to become a Christian, he said nothing about being a disciple:
Some people do nor understand the calling of Christ. For some people even the initial coming to Christ is a bit of an enigma according to scripture. You see, we needed to be reminded of about just how we came to Christ. We had some one share the gospel with us--the good news. We were touched in our hearts so much so we wanted to repent of all our sin. We wanted to make Jesus Christ number one in our life. We wanted to make him Lord. Then we were willing to confess Jesus before men and then we were baptized. We were water baptized and in the waters of baptism by faith we shared in Christ's death, his burial and his resurrection. So as Paul writes to the Romans he says, 'We died with Christ, we were buried with Christ so we might be raised to newness of life.' And we need to remember that when we gave our lives to Christ we died to the old life, but praise God we were raised to a new life ... We can never compromise the issue of salvation--what it takes to be saved. You have to have faith, repent, confess and be baptized. That's just how it is.
If the proper teaching about being a disciple before baptism is essential to becoming a Christian, did Kip McKean mislead the audience in the sermon on January 20, 1985? If the January 20, 1985 explanation of how one becomes a Christian is typical and yet lacks what he later teaches as being essential (being a disciple before baptism) did the people that Kip McKean taught from 1979-1986 really become Christians?
Kip McKean clearly stared in his presentation to the Boston women explaining his view of baptism that he doesn't believe in rebaptism. Grant Henley was trained in Boston and was sent to lead the planting in Munich, Germany and assisted in the Denver reconstruction. The form he used in Germany for keeping records (baptisms and placing membership) clearly teaches that the Boston Movement believes in rebaptism. The German word for baptism is taufe and the word for rebaptism is wiedertaufe. The word for rebaptism is used three times on this form. (See Appendix. The form is dated 2-89.) The form used by Grant Henley in Germany is the same form used in Boston. The form that House Church leaders use to record baptisms and those placing membership also has a place to record rebaptism (see Appendix). How can Kip McKean publicly preach the following, denying rebaptisms in spite of the forms used in Boston and Boston plantings and still be honest with the facts:
No one has been rebaptized around here. Not a single person has been rebaptized around here. I only believe in one baptism. (1987 Women's Retreat in Boston.)
(See Appendix for the Baptism, Rebaptism and Placing Membership form used in Chicago.)
Gordon Ferguson serves as an elder and evangelist in the Boston Church of Christ. On May 29, 1988, he expressed his views about baptism and the churches of Christ in the Boston Bulletin.
For years, I have been puzzled by 'Christians' who were resistant to sharing their faith and to doing other things taught in the New Testament. I am no longer puzzled. Either these people never became disciples, or they quit being disciples. In either case, they are not saved. Calling ourselves 'Christians' or 'members of the church' means nothing. If we are not doing what disciples are commanded to do, we are not saved. And my personal conviction is that many of those in 'churches of Christ' have never biblically repented, have never become disciples, and are thus not Christians. A large number of people, including me, have faced the issue and have been baptized with a true disciple's repentance. My challenge for all of us is to be open to His Spirit as we continue to study His Word.
In an earlier article in the same series (May 8, 1988),Ferguson expressed his view of churches of Christ not associated with the Boston Movement. It appears that his views of baptism and being a disciple have a lot to do with his following evaluation:
Four, the churches of Christ over the past one hundred years have absolutely proved that religion focused on doctrine is unbiblical. No group has studied more, debated more, and united less. The results have been tragic. Most 'mainline' congregations are full of worldliness and deadness. And the world they were supposed to save remains terribly unaffected by Jesus and the so-called 'churches of Christ.' Jesus said, 'Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it' (Luke 11:44).
Currently, there are only two churches in the Boston Movement with elders (San Diego and Boston). Of the five elders (three in Boston and two in San Diego), four have been rebaptized (including their respective wives) in the last two years.
During the Brockton House Church reconstruction, Joe Garmon reflected the same teaching as Ferguson and McKean and their perception of the erroneous teaching of baptism in the churches of Christ.
People in the churches of Christ who have not been discipled first and then baptized are not saved ... We believe those who have left here have left the church--have left the Lord. And we believe the churches of Christ in general do not teach, do not preach, do not believe in--as a matter of fact, oppose--the doctrine of making disciples before baptism. And because of that the vast majority of people in the churches of Christ are not saved.
Joe Garmon's statements show a clear misunderstanding of Matthew 28:18-20:
Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.
"Make disciples" is a verb (imperative) followed by two participles (baptizing and teaching) which explain how disciples are made. To teach the "doctrine of making disciples first" and then baptizing them (as if these are two separate ideas) is to totally misunderstand and misinterpret Matthew 28:18-20.
Jeff Brown who was trained in San Diego and led the reconstruction of the Phoenix, Arizona church set forth the position of the Boston Movement on the subject of Acts and baptism in a speech in Phoenix in January 1988.
I love watching baptisms. It's great. But there's gotta be repentance first. Why's this been done? Why have we been so guilty of just preaching baptism preaching (two words are not understandable, JJ), and not just what is going on in our heart. I think it comes from a misuse of the book of Acts. You know, it's amazing, typical for denominations to go through. They claim they go through and they get a book to look into. It's also common for churches that claim not to be denominations. The Lutherans have picked Romans, have gotten into Romans and have gone into everything about the book of Romans and have excluded the other things. The Baptists have picked the book of John. They have excluded other things as well. The charismatics have picked Corinthians and have focused their efforts on that book. We in the church of Christ have focused on the book of Acts. We have misused it. And have not really seen what it is really teaching. It's an inaccurate statement and I have made it before and I've heard many other people say it, it's an inaccurate statement to say that you can read the book of Acts you'll know what to do to become a Christian. It's inaccurate. Is all you need is to look at what they did in the book of Acts? Yes, we need to know what is in the book of Acts and that baptism is highlighted in the book of Acts. No question. But let's not over react to the book of Acts. Let's look in our lives at the whole book and not just look at this one. Because if we look through Acts as part two of the book of Luke. Really, its out of its position as they put the book of John in between. Luke never intended, never intended us to understand the book of Acts without internalizing the book of Luke.
Jeff Brown represents the Boston Movement position on the relationship of the gospel accounts (Matthew-John) and the book of Acts. The Boston Movement teaches that one must understand Jesus' teaching on what a disciple is before he can be baptized. Jeff Brown stressed that Luke meant for the readers to internalize Luke before he understood Acts. On the surface this appears reasonable but is flawed logically. In Acts 2:41, 3000 people were baptized who had never internalized Luke. The 3000 were baptized in 33 A.D. and Luke wasn't written until 30 years later. To assume the 3000 in Acts 2:41 understood Jesus' teaching on what a disciple should be is totally unwarranted. There is no indication that the people Peter preached to were followers of John the Baptist or Jesus. In fact, Peter declared that his audience thought he and his fellow servants were drunk (Acts 2:13). On two occasions during the sermon, Peter stated that his audience was guilty of crucifying Jesus (Acts 2:21, 36). It would be incredible to believe this audience had "internalized" the book of Luke before their baptism (Acts 2:41).
The thrust of Peter's message prior to the 3000 being baptized was quoting and explaining Old Testament scriptures (Joel 2:28-32; Psalm 16:8-11; Psalm 110:1). To assume the 3000 had learned the teachings of Jesus on being a disciple (like that of Luke 14:25-33) before they were baptized is unreasonable. The observation about the 3000 in Acts 2:41 could also be made about other baptisms in Acts. According to the teaching of the Boston Movement on baptism, the baptisms in Acts 2 weren't scriptural even though they received divine approval. If 3000 can be baptized in Acts 2 without internalizing Luke, why can't it be done today? In this case, the Boston Movement requires more than was required of the thousands baptized in the early days of the church.
The shortest and best explanation of Matthew 28:18-20 that I have ever read is one done by Tom Jones in an article entitled "Was My Baptism Valid?" This article was written May 8, 1987 while he was on the staff of the Central Church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama. A reading of the entire article would lead you to believe he was writing in opposition to all the rebaptisms that had taken place in the fall of 1986 and the spring of 1987. Tom Jones moved to Boston in October of 1987 and was baptized in December of 1987. While I could summarize this section on Matthew 28:18-20, I could not improve on his wording. His explanation of Matthew 28:18-20 is only a portion of his six-page, single spaced typewritten article.
Make Disciples ... Then Baptize Them?
(1) Some have argued from Matthew 28:19-20 that the only candidate for baptism is someone who has already become a disciple. The argument seems to run this way:
'Jesus said, "go make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." We can see then that we are first to make disciples, then baptize them, and then teach them more. This means that no one should be baptized who is not already a disciple. And if you were baptized before you became a disciple, then your baptism was not valid.'
Now there is something about this line of reasoning that is to be commended. No one should be baptized unless he has decided that he or she wants to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, or a disciple. If someone was baptized just to please Mom or just to get a nagging wife to be quiet, or just to get in with a wealthy congregation where there are many good business prospects, or some other such reason then obviously Biblical baptism would not have taken place. Such a one would not have entered the Kingdom of God.
However, I see two problems with the way this passage is being used by some people:
A. The grammatical structure of the sentence is not being taken into consideration. In this passage 'make disciples' is the main verb and 'baptizing them' and 'teaching them' are the participles that modify the main verb. In other words baptizing them and teaching describe how to make disciples. It is incorrect to read the passage as if it says 'first make a disciple, then baptize him, then teach him.' There are not three steps in the sentence that came from Jesus. There is one main objective--clarified by two other phrases. We could not even argue that the second of these phrases must come after the first. Obviously, before anyone is a sound candidate for baptism into Christ he must be taught some things that Jesus commanded us to do (if nothing else at least to repent and be baptized). There will be teaching about Jesus and his commands, there will be baptism into Him, and there will be more teaching that will follow and all of this is part of the process of making a disciple. A disciple is not 'made' in some final sense when he is baptized, anymore than a man is not 'made' after he goes through puberty. The making of a man continues throughout his life, and so it is with the making of a disciple. And so we rightly use the term 'discipling' to refer to what we do with someone who is already a Christian to move him on toward greater maturity.
B. 2nd, the term disciple is too narrowly defined in many applications of this passage. Someone says 'My baptism was not valid because I was not a disciple when I was baptized.' Their statement reflects their present understanding of discipleship after many years of study. They now understand that a disciple is
- one who holds fast to the word of Christ in all situations.
- one who denies himself and takes up the cross daily.
- one who puts Christ above every over relationship.
- one who loves his brothers and sisters even as Christ loved his disciples.
- one who is fruitful (that is one who has the fruit of the Spirit and one who goes and makes other disciples).
Then they say, 'that's not where I was when I was baptized so my baptism was not valid.' Such reasoning is an example of using Scripture against itself. One 'has to be a disciple before he is baptized' but this definition of a disciple describes things that a person cannot possibly do until he is baptized into Christ, added to the body, and drinking of the one Spirit.
If one must be a disciple before he is baptized into Christ and if one cannot be a disciple unless he bears fruit then he can never be baptized because he cannot bear fruit for God until he is added to the vine--who is Christ. Talk about a 'Catch 22.' This is a classic. Whenever we paint ourselves into such a corner we can be sure we have wrongly used Scripture.
What did Jesus want when he said what he did in Matthew 28? He wanted his disciples (those who were committed to him, trusting him, and learning to be like him) to go out and preach about him and about the responses he called for. He wanted them to find open hearts who were willing to enroll in his school of life and learn of him. He wanted them to teach these people that were outside of Christ they were lost without him, but he also wanted his disciples to teach these people the 'cost' of accepting salvation. If these people saw their need and wanted God's forgiveness and God's will for their lives, he wanted his disciples to baptize them--assure them of their forgiveness and then teach them all the other details about following him. Precisely what they had to know before they could be properly baptized is as hard to determine as the exact age of accountability for a young person. Certainly they had to recognize their need for Christ and they had to want to learn of him (isn't this what a disciple is--a learner?).
But didn't they have to repent? Certainly. But in deciding to follow Christ one was deciding to stop following himself and that is repentance. In deciding to trust Christ for his salvation instead of trying to work his way up to it, he was repenting (turning in a new direction). But in defining disciple, let us beware of defining the term in such a way that one cannot become one until one already is one. What we seem to have done is to go to passages that describe where a disciple's life will lead and assume that you cannot even begin the journey to those places until you have arrived at them. We like to make the point that a disciple and a Christian are one and the same, but let us be careful lest we say that one cannot become a Christian (through baptism) until he already is a Christian (a disciple).
The Boston Movement teaching of Matthew 28:18-20 has led to massive rebaptisms, especially in "reconstructions." It would be interesting to know how the Boston Movement would have handled the situation that Paul faced at Corinth (read 1 Corinthians). Even though the Christians were engaged in many un-Christian activities and were wrong on some basic doctrinal issues (such as the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15), they were never instructed to be baptized again. When Simon believed the good news and was baptized, he became a Christian (Acts 8:12-13). Peter rebuked him when he tried to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit to others:
Peter answered: 'May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart' (Acts 8:20-22).
Simon was commanded to repent and pray, not to be baptized again. Given the same situation today, what would the Boston Movement teach?
Frequently when a young Christian in the Boston Movement doesn't grow as fast as he should, his conversion is questioned. Often the discipler will think the young Christian has some "unrepented sin" which is holding him back, which perhaps would even invalidate the conversion. However, lack of growth isn't traced to some unrepented sin but to a failure to remember that he has been cleansed.
For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins (2 Peter 1:8-9).
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