Maxey - Martin Dialogue

An Email Exchange Between

Al Maxey, Minister/Elder
Cuba Avenue Church of Christ
Alamogordo, New Mexico

and

David Martin, Pastor
Solid Rock Baptist Church
Bartlett, Tennessee

Comments by Al Maxey

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

David Martin began his last post with this statement, "Al, you refer to the both of us as 'disciples.' If one of us is saved, the other is lost and therefore not a 'disciple.'" The Greek word that we translate "disciple" simply signifies one who is a "student; one who is learning, or being instructed." I consider us both to be students of the Scriptures and of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Before one can become convicted of Truth, one must be instructed in Truth. Those being instructed are disciples. Thus, one may very well be a disciple and yet not have come to the point of saving faith & conviction. After coming to Christ one still continues to learn of Him, thus one continues to be a student of the Word. Therefore, both saved and unsaved can be disciples (in the true sense of the term) if they are seeking greater insight into the inspired Word of God.

Whether you are saved or lost is not my judgment to make, David. That rests in the hands of our God. Thus, I will not be so bold as to take the throne of God with regard to your personal salvation. All I can justifiably do is proclaim what I believe the Scriptures to teach and then allow you the freedom to examine yourself in that light. It is only your TEACHING I seek to examine, David, not your HEART. The latter is God's business, not mine.

David wrote, "You call our dialogue a discussion of differences between 'brethren.' We are NOT 'brethren' according to me or YOU, if we truly believe what we say we do." I will always seek to give another disciple the benefit of the doubt, David. If you claim to be a child of the Father, I shall assume you are being truthful until it is proved conclusively otherwise. Simply because two people differ over some matters of perception or interpretation, does NOT automatically make one of them an apostate. A man can be my BROTHER without being my TWIN.

Yes, David, you and I differ greatly on some issues. Does that mean one of us is "a wolf wearing wool"? I would rather think perhaps we are both fellow sheep in the fold who simply have some major differences in our understanding of the Word. This dialogue, therefore, is being approached by ME as a dialogue between two persons purporting to be children of the Father, and until it is demonstrated otherwise I shall regard it as such. This does NOT mean I endorse your personal beliefs, any more than you endorse mine. It simply means I am unwilling to regard you as anything other than what you CLAIM to be until such time as the Word demonstrates otherwise.

David wrote, "You also state that you cannot judge who is a heretic and who is not. Then it is impossible for you to obey Titus 3:10,11. A heretic is one who holds views contrary to correct Bible doctrine, particularly in regard to the fundamental doctrines, especially salvation. If you cannot discern heresy, then you cannot warn those under your spiritual care, yet, you no doubt expose what you believe is false doctrine. As Mr. Spock used to say, 'Illogical.'"

My only point, David, is that I am hesitant to judge the HEART of another. The TEACHING of another can be evaluated easily. But, there is a vast difference between false TEACHING and a false TEACHER. One may do the former without being the latter. I have stated, for example, that I believe some of your positions to be false in light of the Word. However, I would hesitate to characterize YOU PERSONALLY as "false" because that is a judgment on your character and motives. One may well be presenting false information, but NOT doing so out of evil intent. It may just be ignorance. Apollos, for example, was a very devoted, spiritual man, but he was teaching falsely with regard to baptism (Acts 18:24-28). Did that make him a heretic? Of course not! It made him a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ, filled with the Spirit, who simply did not possess a full understanding of Truth. Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and "explained to him the way of God more accurately." That is all I seek to do with you, David. I do not seek to judge your heart, but merely to expose what I believe to be incorrect teaching with regard to certain areas of God's Word.

Regarding Acts 10

David wrote, "The only Jews to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost were the disciples gathered in the upper room, and the apostles who preached in tongues to the Jews present that day. Those who repented and were baptized that day are not said to have spoken in tongues at all."

I do not disagree with this at all. Indeed, I never suggested otherwise. When I spoke of the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the Jews in Jerusalem on Pentecost, it was this specific group of whom I spoke. Perhaps I did not make that as clear in my post as I could have, and thus apologize for any confusion it may have caused you.

David seemed to think, as per his last post, that I am in a confused state as to whether I am "Church of Christ" or "Baptist" in my perception of baptism. Actually, I seek to be neither. I merely seek to be biblical. Yes, I believe baptism (immersion in water) is a required act of obedience if one would truly be clothed with Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:27). I assume David would also like to stand before God one day "clothed with Christ." Thus, when Paul writes, "all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ," I assume that David will want to comply.

When Jesus declares, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16), I assume that David will want to do that which is specified here in order to acquire the specified result. Perhaps I am mistaken in that assumption, and David only believes in doing the first of these two, but unless he specifically states he will only HALF-obey his Lord here, I will assume he believes in full compliance. Do you, David?

Yes, I agree with David that immersion is "a demonstration (illustration & expression) of our faith in Christ." I disagree with David, however, in his view that baptism is not related to our salvation. Jesus apparently also disagrees with David --- "He who has believed AND HAS BEEN BAPTIZED shall be saved!" Now, if David wants to argue with Jesus Christ over this statement, he is free to do so. I am not that bold. Apparently 3000 on the day of Pentecost were not either. They repented and were baptized unto the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). Paul arose and was baptized, washing away his sins (Acts 22:16). Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water where the latter was immersed (Acts 8:36-39). Apparently Peter saw some spiritual relevance to immersion in water, for he ORDERED Cornelius and his associates to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:48).

Such teaching is not "Church of Christ" teaching, nor is it "Baptist" teaching. It is simply what the Scriptures teach. Immersion in water is never relegated to the realm of the optional. It is something commanded, and it is something respondents immediately sought to comply with. It is linked with the forgiveness of sins, the washing clean from sin, being clothed with Christ, and with salvation. I accept this as the teaching of God's Word ..... David Martin apparently DOES NOT.

According to David Martin, one can be cleansed of his sins, he can be clothed with Christ, and he can be saved even if he REFUSES to be baptized in water. David clearly declared in an email to me (quoted earlier in this exchange) that if a believer ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to comply with the command to be immersed, that person was still saved. Thus, David believes one can be eternally saved even though that person willfully and obstinately REFUSES to obey the Lord with regard to this demonstration of faith. Jesus Christ has become "to all those who OBEY Him the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:9). David disputes this passage of Scripture. Again, I am not so bold.

David, I have at least twice in this exchange examined the Acts 22:16 passage in some depth and asked for your response to that exegesis. You have yet to even mention it. I would be interested in your response to my analysis. To refresh your memory, here again are my comments:

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As for the Scriptural connection between water baptism and the forgiveness of sins, consider the following:

anastas baptisai kai apolousai tas amartias sou

This would literally be translated "Rise up, be baptized and wash away your sins." The word "apoluo" conveys the concept of procuring cleansing through an act of washing. That washing would be a reference to the act of baptism. Both "baptize" and "wash away" appear as 1st Aorist Imperatives (2nd person singular), and they are connected by "kai." Thus, the two are inseparably linked together in this grammatical construction. Paul is commanded to rise up and cleanse himself of his sins via the washing of baptism. It came as no surprise to me that you conveniently left this passage out of your "exegesis of baptism" from NT sources.

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Once again, I challenge you to provide a reasonable and rational analysis of this passage in light of your theology relevant to baptism in water. Thus far you have failed to do so. You wrote, "there is no way anyone can find baptism preached as a means of receiving forgiveness of sins." David, perhaps you could simply share with us how your statement compares to Acts 22:16 (not to mention Acts 2:38).

With regard to the Gentiles in Acts 10, David wrote, "IF the Gentiles WERE to refuse to be baptized, which they DID NOT, but if they did, the fact is that THEY HAD ALREADY RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST according to the text! And again, without obeying they would not have gotten the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:32). Therefore they MUST have obeyed to receive the Holy Ghost, and this, according to the Bible in any version, including your NASV, happened BEFORE they were baptized. So, to parrot your question: 'What was the point?'"

The Spirit was poured out upon them just as it was upon the group of JEWS at Pentecost TO FULFILL the prophecy of Joel 2. This is clearly stated in the text. This was NOT the receiving of the Spirit that one finds mentioned in Acts 2:38. This was a special outpouring for the purpose of demonstrating God's acceptance of "ALL FLESH" into His family. This was done as much for Peter and his companions that day as it was for Cornelius and his associates. This was NOT a demonstration of salvation, but a demonstration of acceptance (representatively) of a group of people (the Gentiles). When Peter saw that THEY also had been approved by God for inclusion into His family, he realized that NO ONE could possibly "refuse the water for these to be baptized" (Acts 10:47), thus HE ORDERED THEM to be immersed.

David, you are confusing the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of Joel 2 with the reception of the Holy Spirit which each disciple receives who believes, repents & is baptized (Acts 2:38). These are not the same event.

Regarding Acts 19

David wrote, "The Bible says in Romans 8:9 that if you do not have the Spirit of God, you are NOT Christ's. I am only repeating what the Bible says. Again, Al is confusing ME with the BIBLE." No, David, there is no danger of that!! I too believe what Romans 8:9 teaches. If we do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within us, then we are not His. Again, however, you seem to confuse the reception of the Spirit into our hearts with the special outpouring in fulfillment of Joel 2. They are two separate events.

With regard to Acts 19:1-7, we see some men who BELIEVED, but who had not yet received the Holy Spirit. David would insist that without the Spirit in their hearts these 12 men were not yet IN CHRIST and thus not yet SAVED. However, they BELIEVED. They had FAITH. If salvation comes at the point of FAITH, then they SHOULD have been SAVED, right? But, something was obviously amiss. They DID have faith, but they DIDN'T have the Spirit. Paul immediately questions them with regard to the nature of their baptism. Now, David, why do you suppose he might wonder about THAT? Could it be that immersion into Christ had something to do with their reception of the Spirit?

As soon as it was determined they had not yet been immersed into Christ Jesus, "they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus" (vs. 5). Paul THEN (not before) laid his hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit. Why didn't Paul just lay his hands on them BEFORE they were baptized? What was the point of them being immersed? They had already believed? They HAD faith! And if it was just the laying on of hands that granted them the Spirit, then there was no need for immersion . right, David?!!!

On the contrary. They OBEYED and THEN they received the promised Spirit. As a visible demonstration to them that they would be receiving the Holy Spirit, Paul laid his hands on them. As a visible evidence to them that they had now received this Spirit (remember, they did not even know there WAS a Holy Spirit ... vs. 2), they spoke in tongues and prophesied. Why? As visible demonstration TO THEM that there WAS a Holy Spirit and that they had now received Him. They needed this confirmation.

CONCLUSION

I think it is obvious that one of the major differences David and I have is over the significance of baptism. We both regard it as a necessary demonstration of one's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We both apparently agree that it is full immersion in water. The difference lies in its relationship to the cleansing of one's sin and one's ultimate salvation. David believes it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the removal of sins or salvation, whereas I believe it is vitally connected.

I do not believe baptism itself (the act) is some magical, meritorious WORK that has within itself the power to forgive sins or save a sinner. Forgiveness of sin and salvation are both IN CHRIST JESUS. We are saved by the grace of the Father through our faith in the Son. However, that faith MUST be demonstrated. David and I both agree that baptism IS a demonstration of that faith. Our only disagreement appears to be over the NECESSITY of that demonstration to acquire the gift of forgiveness and salvation. I believe a faith NOT demonstrated (indeed, a faith one WILLFULLY REFUSES to demonstrate) is NOT a saving faith. David apparently believes otherwise. He declares one can WILLFULLY REFUSE to demonstrate his faith and STILL BE SAVED. I simply do not believe the Bible teaches this.

Demonstrating one's faith is NOT to be confused with seeking to EARN salvation via that demonstration (as though it was some meritorious work). If I was to teach that the act of baptism in water IS WHAT SAVES YOU, then I would be proclaiming false doctrine. Baptism is nothing more than a demonstration of our faith. However, if I REFUSE to demonstrate my faith in the manner requested by my Lord, then I forfeit the GIFT of salvation. David teaches otherwise. He says one CAN refuse to demonstrate his/her faith according to the manner specified by the Lord, and in spite of that willful rejection of the Lord's command, that one will STILL BE SAVED. That is false teaching, David. I am going to assume it is done in ignorance, and thus I would not characterize you yourself as a teacher who is FALSE in nature. However, if you are knowingly misleading people on this matter, THEN the label "false teacher" would apply. Again, I am going to take the "high road" and assume the best of you, and that is that you are simply unenlightened as to the fullness of God's Truth on this matter.

My prayer for you is for your enlightenment. Like some of Paul's contemporaries, you obviously "have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge" (Romans 10:2). May God lead you to a more complete knowledge of His Word so that you may cease from your teaching of falsehoods and begin proclaiming the glorious Truth.

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