Maxey - Hughes Debate

First Affirmative
to the First Proposition
by Al Maxey

Wednesday, September 11, 2002


If a repentant, confessing believer in Jesus Christ has fully committed himself/herself to being obedient to Christ Jesus in baptism, but dies unexpectedly prior to actually complying with that command (due to circumstances beyond his/her control), God's grace will cover that person, and they will receive the gift of eternal salvation, based on the genuine intent of their heart at the time of their death.


  1. "repentant, confessing believer." One who has come to that point of conviction and faith in Jesus Christ which leads to a turning away from a life of sin and a turning toward a life of obedience and faithfulness to Jesus Christ, and an acknowledgement both verbally and visibly (in daily living) of the death, burial, resurrection, deity and lordship of Jesus as the Son of God, our Redeemer.

  2. "fully committed to being obedient to Christ Jesus." An inner conviction, and willingness of mind and heart, to comply completely and immediately with all the Lord Jesus has required of a person as specified in His inspired New Covenant writings, as best as personally understood.

  3. "baptism." Immersion in water.

  4. "God's grace." The blessed favor of our God bestowed freely and undeservedly upon those who choose by active faith to receive both it and its benefits.

  5. "eternal salvation." The gift of life everlasting (immortality) with our Lord and the redeemed of all ages following the resurrection and judgment.


Let me begin this exchange with Michael by stating that I firmly believe baptism is a biblically required response of faith to God's gracious offer of forgiveness of sin, reception of the Holy Spirit, incorporation into the One Body of Jesus Christ, and ultimately of eternal salvation. It is my conviction that those who have been taught about baptism, and who then REFUSE to obey, will be lost. As one who proclaims the gospel, I am obligated to declare the full counsel of my Lord, and I believe that requires me to urge the lost to hear the good news of Christ Jesus, to believe it with all their hearts, to repent of their sinful life apart from God and turn toward Him, to confess Jesus Christ as God's Son who was crucified, buried and arose from the grave, and then to visibly demonstrate this faith in Jesus through an act of faithful obedience: baptism. Having done these things one is then washed clean of his past sins, receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is added to the Lord and numbered with all other redeemed ones in the ONE BODY universal.

There have been some over the years who have mistakenly alleged that I do not believe baptism is a requirement under the New Covenant. That is not the case. I fully recognize it is commanded by our Lord, and we are commissioned therefore to "go and make disciples of all the nations, BAPTIZING them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). "He who has believed and has been BAPTIZED shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). On the day of Pentecost, when those touched in their hearts asked what they must do to be saved, Peter responded, "Repent, and let each of you be BAPTIZED in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Thus, in light of these passages, and others which could be given, it would be foolish of me to deny the place of baptism in God's expectations of those who desire to come to Him for spiritual cleansing and eternal salvation. I would no more remove baptism from this process than I would remove faith, repentance or confession. All are required responses from those who have heard the gospel.

Having stated the above, I nevertheless believe the Scriptures convey an exalted view of God's matchless GRACE. His grace, in combination with His mercy, compassion, goodness and love, will triumph in judgment. "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands" (Rom. 3:10-11). "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). No person is deserving of salvation, for all will stand before the Lord in filthy rags (figuratively speaking). If salvation depends upon our own worth or merit, and if it must be procured by human effort or meritorious works, NONE will find salvation.

Ultimately, salvation is a GIFT unto those who evidence faith in Him. We are "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24). "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Rom. 5:1-2).

All through the Scriptures, both in the OT and NT writings, we find evidence of the outpouring of God's GRACE upon those who have fallen short of absolute perfection in understanding, application and obedience to His will. Those who ultimately gain His approval, however, are people with right HEARTS. I am personally convicted, from my study of the Word, that experiencing God's saving grace is far more a matter of right attitudes than right actions. This certainly is NOT to discount the latter (which are important), but it is, after all, HEARTS our Lord is concerned with. "For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).

I believe a perfect example of this principle can be seen in the evaluation and justification of Abraham after he was commanded to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22). The Lord God issued a command, and Abraham immediately set out to obey that command. But, did Abraham actually OBEY that command? No, he did not. He was "providentially hindered" from carrying it out. It was through no fault of his own; in his heart he had committed himself to the prescribed action. That action, however, was never actually performed. Nevertheless, the Lord God regarded the INTENT of Abraham's heart as sufficient unto justification in this circumstance. God knew what Abraham's INTENT was, and even though the sacrifice of Isaac never happened, it DID happen in Abraham's HEART. God knew that if Abraham had NOT been hindered, he WOULD have completed carrying out the command. Indeed, he had sought immediately to do so.

I think the wording of Hebrews 11:17-19 is very enlightening on this point. "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, OFFERED UP Isaac; and he who had received the promises was OFFERING UP his only begotten son; .... He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead." In his heart, Abraham had already made this offering unto God. In his heart, the offering up of Isaac was a completed act. He was even looking beyond the action, in his heart, to a resurrection of his slain son from the dead. He trusted God that much!

God searched the heart of Abraham and He saw obedience to the command to offer up his son Isaac. Although the action was never completed, due to circumstances beyond the control of Abraham, nevertheless God considered the INTENT of Abraham's HEART as being equal to the actual fulfillment of the command. Not only was Abraham intent upon complying, but he "rose early in the morning" to begin the process of obeying (Gen. 22:3). There is no record of hesitation or procrastination; there is no argument or appeal. There is only immediate compliance. Had Abraham not been hindered, he would have slain Isaac on that altar.

This incident not only tells us something about Abraham, it also tells us something about God. Our God searches HEARTS. He knows our INTENT. We may fool those about us, but we can never fool our God. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the HEART, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God" (Rom. 2:28-29). Although men should seek immediately to comply with whatever our God has commanded, we fail to perceive the GRACE of our God, not to mention His nature, when we deny Him the right to judge the intent of a person's heart with greater weight than a man's precision of compliance. By demanding legalistic absolutism from our God we would in effect seal the doom of Abraham, who, after all, failed to fully obey the Lord. If men are to be saved or lost on legal technicalities, we are all doomed.

Some will seek to get around this issue by suggesting it was GOD who stopped Abraham from completing the action. That is true. But, a command of God not obeyed is still a command of God not obeyed. We also run into the problem of God making exceptions for one man but not for others. The problem is further compounded when one realizes that all things under the sun are ultimately in God's hands!! Thus, can we ever truly say some action which may serve to hinder one from complete compliance to a command is NOT under God's control?

Let's make application of this principle to our proposition. To help us in this endeavor, I would like to relate an incident that occurred four years ago in the congregation where I serve as minister and elder. I was gone one particular Sunday and one of the older men (who had preached for many years, and who is also a noted writer for several of the more conservative brotherhood journals), filled in for me that morning. When I returned, there were several members waiting to inform me of something he had said in his invitation remarks. Not wanting to rely on hearsay, I secured a copy of the tape from the church secretary and listened to it for myself.

This gentleman (who shall remain anonymous, and who has since left to worship with another congregation) stated that if a man had come to a deep belief/faith in Jesus Christ, had genuinely repented of his sins, had made the "good confession" before men, and was standing in the waters of the baptistery with the intent of being immersed into Christ Jesus, and this man died suddenly ONE SECOND before being baptized, he would go straight to hell.

Needless to say, I was shocked at this statement. So were many of the members. In fact, some were absolutely horrified that anyone would make such an assertion. But, it gets worse. I mentioned this incident on a biblical Internet discussion list and had a man respond, "I would go even farther. If that man in the example was plunged beneath the waters of the baptistery and then suddenly died before his nose broke the surface of the water, he would still go straight to hell."

Michael, it is THIS teaching that prompted me to state the proposition for our debate as I did. I firmly believe such a doctrine fails to perceive both the nature and grace of our God. Indeed, in my view, to suggest God would NOT regard the intent of this man's heart, in this extreme situation, as equal to actual compliance, and thus extend to this man the gift of salvation, would make a mockery of grace. I reject such a doctrine with every fiber of my being, and I firmly believe this teaching is an affront to deity.

I look forward to your response, brother. May God's richest blessings be upon you.