From our LTBS vault, a classic broadcast of Let the Bible Speak with Ronny Wade from the mid-1960’s. This sermon was the beginning of a series on innovations in religion. It was originally aired on KY3-TV in Springfield, MO. Bro. Wade hosted the program there for the majority of a span of 45-years. He continues to preach at home in Springfield and across the country in gospel meetings.
So many people incorporate instrumental music into their worship today that most take it for granted. But is it scriptural? That is, does God’s word authorize it? Did the early church use it or did they sing a cappella? Those are some of the questions I want us to investigate in our study today. Churches of Christ have long been known for NOT using mechanical instruments of music in worship. Why is that? Is there a Bible reason for that fact?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about innovations and the Bible pattern. God has always revealed His plan for worship to man, never leaving it to man to offer whatever kind of worship he pleased, so it matters what the Bible says about worship and how we worship. The apostle Paul said that all that we say and do must be in the name of or by the authority of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). Paul also instructed the Ephesian brethren:
Ephesians 5:19 “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,”
What was Paul instructing us to do? Does that instruction include the use of a mechanical instrument of music? You may be surprised by the answers we find when we search the scriptures together.
Singing has been a hallmark of God’s people throughout history—Old and New Testaments. God’s people have always been a singing people. Music is a beautiful gift from God and is one of the most sincere expressions of the human soul. Through our singing, we praise God, we edify each other, and we express the deep feelings of our hearts toward God. Music can be an outpouring of joy or solace in our sorrows, as well as an encouragement in our endeavors for the Lord. Therefore, it is given a place of great prominence in our spiritual lives and in the work of the church. But we should note that every time singing is mentioned in the New Testament, there is no mention of anything except singing. There is not one word in the New Testament that would authorize or encourage the use of the mechanical instruments in the worship of the church. In fact, it doesn’t take very long to read every New Testament passage that says anything about the disciples of Christ singing. Let’s just do that very quickly.
When the disciples had their final meeting with Jesus before His crucifixion, He instituted the Lord’s Supper and the scripture tells us this:
Matthew 26:30 “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Acts 16:25 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God…”
Romans 15:9 “…I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.”
1 Corinthians 14:15 “…I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
1 Corinthians 14:26 “…when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm…”
Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
Colossians 3:16 “…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Hebrews 2:12 “…in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”
James 5:13 “…Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
The absence of instrumental music from all those passages is rather conspicuous. After all, instruments had been around for hundreds upon hundreds of years when the church was established, and the New Testament was written. Yet, the New Testament record of the early church NEVER mentions them being used in the worship of the church—not even one time. Have you ever stopped to wonder where their use originated in the work and worship of the church? It wasn’t among the disciples of the first century. So, if they didn’t come from the New Testament, where did they come from?
Believe it or not, it was more than 630 years after the Lord established the church before mechanical instruments made their way into the worship. You have a 600+ years period of time where the church did not use them. When they finally made their appearance, they did so under a great cloud of controversy. It doesn’t take a great deal of research to find that they were first proposed by the roman catholic church and pope Vitalian I in southern Europe in about the year 670. Then it was removed for a while because it threatened to divide the Catholic church, but it was finally reintroduced about 100 years later. As a result, the Greek Orthodox church refused it, and by the way still refuses it today.
Some historians argue that it was hundreds of years after that before the practice was commonly accepted throughout the world. In fact, Thomas Aquinas was a priest in the 13th century and he said, “Our church does not use musical instruments as harps and psalteries to praise God withal, though she may not seem to Judaize.” In other words, mechanical instruments belonged to the era of the Jewish temple and many religious leaders opposed them in their churches, even after some roman catholic churches adopted them. Later, during the Reformation era, instrumental music didn’t find a lot of sympathizers among the leading theologians of that time. In fact, it may surprise you to hear what some of the founders of modern-day denominations which now embrace instrumental music thought about it at the time.
In his commentary on the 33rd Psalm, John Calvin, the Protestant Reformer and one of the precursors of the Presbyterian church, said, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.” According to Calvin’s conclusion, there would be just as much authority for burnt offerings and sacrifices and other practices of the Old Testament law as for the use of mechanical music in Christian worship.
John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist church and according to Adam Clarke’s commentary, when Mr. Wesley was asked about the use of instrumental music in worship, he replied, “I have no opposition to the organ in our chapel, provided it is neither seen nor heard.” Adam Clarke himself was a Methodist and one of the most respected Bible commentators. He said in volume IV of his commentary: “I am an old man and a minister, and I declare that I never knew them (speaking of instruments) productive of any good in the worship of God and I have reason to believe that they were productive of much evil. Music as a science, I esteem and admire. But instruments of music in the house of God, I abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music and I here register my protest against all such corruption in the worship of the Infinite Spirit, who requires His followers to worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
In his book Christian Theology, Mr. Clarke—again, a Methodist—said this: “The singing, as practiced in several places, and heathenish accompaniments of organs and musical instruments of various sorts, are contrary to the simplicity of the gospel and the spirituality of that worship which God requires as darkness is contrary to light. And if the abuses are not corrected, I believe the time is not far distant when singing will cease to be a part of divine worship. It is now, in many places, such as cannot be said to be any part of that worship which is in spirit and according to truth. May God mend it.”
Think about what he says. First of all, he says it’s unscriptural in being practiced in the first place. Then, he predicts that because of the introduction of instrumental music, singing would cease to be a part of Christian worship. Now, singing as not been eradicated from Christian worship today, but can we not see that it has taken a back seat? Are there not many churches today that rely upon a “praise team” or “praise band” in order to get up and entertain the crowd or to offer musical worship on behalf of the congregation? The idea of congregations merely singing together seems like a dusty relic of the past. Mr. Clarke predicted a long time ago that that would be the case because of instrumental music, and we have seen a great emphasis on music as almost an entertainment venue as opposed to a vehicle for every child of God to lift up His voice in praise to the Lord. That’s a pretty strong indictment against instrumental music from a Methodist preacher.
An equally influential minister from the Baptist religion was Charles Spurgeon. For twenty years, he preached in the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London to thousands of people every Sunday and mechanical instruments were never used in the service as long as he occupied the pulpit there. He was asked one time why they didn’t use an organ and he first quoted this passage:
1 Corinthians 14:15 “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.”
Then he said, “I would as soon pray to God with machinery as to sing to God with machinery.”
Now, I don’t quote all these men to prove that it’s wrong to use instrumental music. Those men are fallible, just as you and I are. They had opinions about Bible subjects and various views about Bible teachings, just as you or I might have various views. What they said within itself doesn’t make it right or wrong. But it is a powerful argument that instrumental music was rejected for so long in so-called Christian worship, and it begs the question—why? Friend, it is a relatively modern innovation in church worship. It certainly does not come close to dating back to the days of the apostles and the early church.
I not only oppose instrumental music in the church for historical reasons, but churches of Christ oppose it for scriptural reasons. Christians are commanded to sing and make melody in our hearts and are never commanded to use an instrument in worship. Musical instruments are never mentioned in the worship practices of the early church. The only credible effort that some can make to authorize instrumental music in worship is from the Greek word psallo, which Paul used in Ephesians 5:19.
Ephesians 5:19 “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
The phrase “making melody” is translated from the Greek word psallo and the basic definition of that word is to touch the surface or to pluck. Some conclude that the phrase, therefore, means ‘to pluck the strings of a mechanical instrument’ and that that is what Paul was referring to. Well, think about what that implies. That necessarily implies the use of an instrument, that we’re commanded to use an instrument, and that it would be wrong NOT to use an instrument. But no one that I’ve talked to believes that it’s wrong to sing a cappella or without instrumental accompaniment. But, friends, if Paul commanded singing, and if “making melody” means playing an instrument, then he also commanded us to play an instrument. If psallo only means to play an instrument, then we’re commanded to do so, and it would be wrong NOT to play an instrument in worship to God.
Not only that, but we would ALL have to play an instrument because we’re ALL commanded to make melody just as we’re all commanded to sing. That is not what’s being taught here. The word psallo is a generic word that can have a number of implications. It simply means to pluck. We must allow the context or circumstances of the word’s usage to determine what kind of psallo-ing is under consideration.
For example, the word baptize, which we studied last time, means to immerse. But it can be used to refer to different elements in the Bible: baptism in water or there was a baptism of fire where the judgment of God fell upon the Jewish nation, or there was the baptism of the Holy Spirit which the apostles received on the Day of Pentecost. The word baptize can refer to all of those because the word itself simply means to immerse.
The word psallo is the same way. You don’t have to look far to see what Paul had in mind here in Ephesians 5. He says to psallo or make melody where? in our hearts. In other words, Paul is using a metaphor to illustrate what is taking place in our hearts when we sing. We are making melody on the strings of our hearts, as it were, and that melody is being heard as we sing. So, Ephesians 5:19 is not instructing the church to use an instrument because again, if it is, then an instrument is commanded and not optional, just as singing is commanded and not optional. In fact, nowhere does the New Testament instruct the church to use an instrument and history testifies to the fact that the early church DID NOT use mechanical instruments of music.
That brings us to another point. Some argue that instrumental music is not an addition to the pattern for worship but is merely an aid or help. Many sincere worshippers have been led to believe that the piano or organ is really not a part of the worship itself but is just a help in fulfilling the command to sing. Just like a songbook would be an aid, and the Bible doesn’t mention songbooks or projecting words up on a screen either. But very few people question the use of such in the church. So why do we turn around and question the use of instrumental music? What’s the difference?
The difference is that an instrument produces music whereas a hymnbook doesn’t. We can use a hymnbook or not use a hymnbook and either way, we’re still doing just what God said: we’re singing. We’re fulfilling God’s commandment, His expectation, and His requirement. He requires that we worship him through singing. If I use a book, don’t use a book, read the words off a projector on the wall, I’m still doing what God asks. If I play an instrument, I am doing something besides singing or something in addition to singing. Therefore, I am offering a different kind of worship to God that He did not ask for. I am adding something that the divine pattern did not call for.
It’s wrong to suggest that playing an instrument is only a help and not an act of worship in and of itself. Tell that to those who play instruments of music in worship. It was certainly an act of worship under the Old Testament. That’s how it was considered when it was used then.
2 Chronicles 29:26-28 “And the Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David king of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded: and all this continued until the burnt offering was finished.”
Psalm 150:3-5 “Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.”
So, playing an instrument IS an act of worship. The question is, is it a form of worship that God employed for the church in the New Testament dispensation? Does God want us to worship with instruments today? Many will argue that if God’s people used instrumental music in the Old Testament temple, then why can’t we use them today? What’s the difference? Wouldn’t the instruction of the psalmist in the last passage we read, as well as other Psalms, give us the authority to use instruments in the worship of the church regardless of the change in dispensations?
It is worth noticing that the Jews did not use instrumental music in the original tabernacle. It came later. And they did not use it in the synagogue. It was later used in the temple. However, it was not part of God’s original design for Old Testament worship. The fact that it was used at all in the Old Testament system of worship doesn’t mean that God intended for it to be used in the New Testament dispensation. There are many practices that belonged to the temple and the Old Testament system that have nothing to do with the worship of the church today if you stop and think about it. We don’t burn incense in the church today. We don’t sacrifice lambs, bulls, or goats in the church today. We don’t engage in all the various types of offerings and sacrifices that they did. We don’t make circumcision a religious practice today. We don’t observe the Sabbath day in this dispensation. Nor should we observe any of the other rituals of the Old Testament economy today.
The question then is this: why can I borrow one thing from the Old Testament system of worship and not something else? The fact of the matter is that the old law was abrogated by reason of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and the new law was established afterward.
Colossians 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;”
Hebrews 7:12 “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.”
Hebrews 9:15 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament…”
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Here, Paul says that the purpose of music in the church today is to teach and admonish one another and make melody in our hearts unto the Lord. Our worship today is not like the ritualistic worship of the Old Testament. Rather, it centers upon the heart and the mind. In our singing, we teach and we admonish. It is the outpouring of the soul in homage, love, and praise to God by means of words. Nothing more adequately does that than the human voice uplifted in praise to God. It was the most simple, sincere, and beautiful instrument ever devised when God created the human voice. He asks that every Christian employ their voice to worship His high and holy name in the church today.
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Instrumental music in worship is nearly a universal practice among churches in the 21st century. Was it the practice of the 1st century disciples? Although introduced into the worship of the Old Testament temple, the new testament falls silent about any such use in the assemblies of the church. Sacred history reveals that it took six-hundred years for them to find their way into new testament era worship. Continuing the series Innovations and the Divine Pattern, in this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak we consider the innovation of Instrumental Music in Church Worship.
The long history of Christianity traces a path of change and departure from the original model of Christ’s church as it is revealed in the New Testament. The plea of churches of Christ around the world is to return to that pattern and to the simplicity that is found in Christ. In our last study, we looked at how church government evolved from the simple structure of qualified elders being appointed in each congregation to govern therein to an unbiblical hierarchy of power superseding the local church. This opened the door everywhere for churches to slowly be led away from the truth in many areas as men began to introduce doctrines and practices foreign to the teachings and traditions of the apostles. Today, we want to look at one such departure in doctrine, and that is the doctrine of baptism.
We’ll take our text from Matthew’s account of the great commission.
Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The apostles were to fill the earth with Christ’s doctrine. They were to make disciples of Christ by baptizing those who believed the gospel and then teach them to observe the ordinances of the Christian life. What place did baptism occupy in the preaching of the apostles? What was baptism as practiced by the early church? Who was to be baptized? When, how, and why were they to be baptized? And how did it change in the centuries to come? It DID change–not only in form, but in meaning. Those are all important questions that the Bible answers in plain and simple terms.
It can’t be denied that baptism was a significant thing in the early church and in the preaching of the gospel. The Bible does not merely make a passing reference or two to baptism. Rather, it places a certain emphasis of urgency upon it. Look at Mark’s account of the great commission:
Mark 16:15-16 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
The book of Acts is an inspired account of how the apostles fulfilled that commission and took the gospel to the world, beginning in Acts 2, the day that the church of Christ began. Peter preached the gospel of the crucified and risen Christ on the Day of Pentecost, convincing and convicting some three thousand Jews of their sins. And they cried out to Peter and the other apostles wanting to know what they were to do to obtain forgiveness of their sins. Listen carefully to Peter’s response:
Acts 2:38 “Repent, and be baptized every one of you (That’s a commandment, and it is to every single person who would believe in Christ) in the name of Jesus Christ (or by Christ’s authority; He commanded it in the passages we’ve already read) for the remission of sins…”
According to verses 41 & 47, they obeyed by turning from their sins and being baptized. They were forgiven of their sins and thus saved, and the Lord added them all to the church. Please notice the contrast between that and what is most often preached today. Friend, when you desired to know how to be saved once upon a time, did a preacher tell you to simply receive Christ into your heart? Were you told to stop wherever you were at the time and bow your head, close your eyes, and repeat the sinner’s prayer, maybe while listening to a preacher over the television or radio? Were you called forward at a service, maybe to an altar where people surrounded you and prayed with you until you felt confident that your sins were gone, and you had the peace and assurance of salvation? Perhaps you were sprinkled with water as a baby or a small child before you even had the capacity to believe the gospel, repent of sin, and confess Christ.
Did you know that ALL of those ideas that I’ve just described are the result of changes and departures from what the apostles taught about salvation and baptism? You can never read of anyone being told by any apostle to repeat a prayer of any kind or wait for a feeling, or sign a pledge, or receive Christ into their heart by simply believing. Rather, in Acts 2, Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 16, Acts 18, Acts 19—in all of those chapters where we have specific accounts of people being saved or converted, they were always immersed in water WHEN they heard and believed the gospel. Baptism was not a church ordinance; it was a gospel ordinance. It was commanded of believing, penitent sinners who desired to have their sins washed away and to enter into Christ. Consider these plain scriptures:
Acts 22:16 (Ananias speaking to Saul) “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Acts 8:35-38 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him (the Ethiopean nobleman) Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
Acts 16:30-33 “And (the jailer) brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.”
Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”
1 Peter 3:21 “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer(or appeal) of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”
Galatians 3:26-27 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Colossians 2:12 “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Well, what do all of these passages show us? 1) Baptism was commanded of every person who believed the gospel and wanted to be saved. 2) Our sins are washed away by virtue of the blood of Christ when we are baptized. 3) We are reborn or regenerated as we are being washed. 4) We are saved by the resurrection of Christ when we’re baptized. 5) We enter into a relationship with Christ and put on Christ not before, but when we are baptized into Him. 6)This baptism is a burial and something we are raised from; in other words, an immersion in water.
So, why is the same emphasis not placed on this divine commandment today? I know that churches today still baptize people, but they don’t do so for the same reasons or at the same time or, in many cases, in the same manner as the apostles did in the first century. Why is that? Because over the centuries, like in so many other ways, men departed from apostolic teaching on this Bible subject. One of the earliest departures took place in about the year 250 AD when sprinkling was first substituted for baptism.
The apostles and the original church did not sprinkle or pour water on a person for baptism. They immersed people in water. It was and is a likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Romans 6:3-5 “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”
The word baptize is actually an unfortunate but common rendering of the Greek word baptizo. That is the word used in the original language and it means to dip, submerge, or plunge. In other words, just as Romans 6:4 and Colossians 2:12 indicate, it is an immersion or burial in water. In Acts 8:36, when the Ethiopian nobleman saw an oasis or pool of water, he said this to Philip:
Acts 8:36 “…”See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
We’re told in verse 38-39 that both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and they came up out of the water. So, notice that when the preachers of the first century baptized people, they did so in water, not with water. This was the universal practice of the church for more than 200 years. But in 250 AD, as far as history records, the first person to have water sprinkled on him as a substitute for baptism was a man named Novatian. He was very sick and on his deathbed. So, as an exception, sprinkling was used and hesitatingly called baptism. Notice at this early juncture that it was considered an alternative only in the extreme case of baptizing the sick, and only then 200 years after apostolic times.
It wasn’t until 503 years after that when in the eighth century (753 AD), pope Steven decreed that it was acceptable to sprinkle for baptism in cases where such was deemed “necessary.” (Remember that by this time, change and innovation had corrupted the government of the church and there was now a pope or universal ruler over the church.) It still was not the usual custom, but by this point, it was allowed by the pope. It wasn’t until the year 1311 that the legislative council of the catholic church at that time declared it a complete matter of indifference whether a person was immersed or sprinkled for baptism. 1300 years of apostolic doctrine was upended by a council of men who took such authority upon themselves. That ought to tell us something about councils, conventions, and so forth.
Today, sprinkling is widely practiced–not only by the catholic religion, but also by several protestant denominations including the church of England. It was the King of England, the head of the Anglican church, who commissioned the translation of the Bible into English in 1611. Because the original text and the original word baptizo refers to immersion, but the commonly accepted practice of the church of England (just like Catholicism) was to sprinkle, instead of translating the word baptizo to immerse as it really should’ve been, they anglicized or transliterated the word to simply be baptize so that sprinkling could be considered scriptural. But, friend, it is NOT scriptural. If you were sprinkled for baptism, you were not scripturally baptized.
Then came the concept of ‘baptismal regeneration’ in the sense that catholic leaders began to teach that instead of baptism being an obedient response to faith, they began to refer to it as a sacrament. It is considered one of the seven sacraments of the church according to catholic doctrine. Other sacraments include the Lord’s Supper and so on, but the Bible never uses the term sacrament. Baptism is never referred to a such.
Sacrament is defined by men as a rite in which something is mystically conveyed on one who practices it. Thus, baptism became a mystical, almost magical rite where salvation was obtained, blessings were received, even apart from faith and repentance. In other words, there was a certain efficacy in baptism within and by itself. That’s how the doctrine of infant baptism came to be, and the Bible never teaches that either. Even the baptism of the unborn came to be. But, you see, a baby has no sins of which to repent. Neither can a baby believe anything, so babies cannot believe in, much less confess Christ, which Philip said was a prerequisite for the baptism of the eunuch (Acts 8:37).
Why do so many churches baptize or sprinkle babies? They do so because they are observing the traditions of men which came about through change and innovation and not the traditions of Christ and His apostles. Some continue this practice today, believing that blessings are conveyed through baptism alone. Now, the Bible is clear that baptism is necessary for salvation. We’ve pointed to several passages that make that abundantly plain. But there is nothing mystical or magical in the water of baptism. It is not a sacrament.
Baptism only accomplishes what God said that it would through faith. It only does what God said it would do when it is the response of faith and is preceded by repentance. If faith and repentance are not present in that act of gospel obedience, then a person just gets wet. Nothing is conferred to such a person. One does not earn or merit anything in baptism either; rather, when one in faith obeys Christ by being immersed in His name for the remission of sins, Christ promises that that penitent believer, through his faith and the blood of Christ, will be saved.
Today, most protestant denominations practice baptism merely as an outward sign or symbol for the Christian to later act out and nothing else. Or they see it as a gateway to membership within their denomination. This, too, is a corruption of the Bible doctrine of baptism. Such baptisms are not scriptural and are not the baptism commanded by Christ. How did that idea come about that is so widely accepted and taken for granted today? It is because the protestant reformation and its leaders threw the baby out with the bath water.
The Swiss reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, was one of the first ones to teach that baptism was merely an outward sign of an inward grace. He lived at the beginning of the sixteenth century and he rejected the catholic form of baptismal regeneration, which IS wrong and unscriptural, calling it a works-based salvation, which it is. But in rightly rejecting that, what they did was relegate baptism to an act of obedience to one who is already saved. But the Bible doesn’t teach that either. The truth lies between the two extremes: one is saved at the time of baptism, but it is through the faith that is manifest in his baptism into Christ.
Then, in the eighteenth century, there was the launch of ‘The Great Awakening,’ where emphasis began to be placed upon individual experiences as opposed to doctrine recognized and practiced by the church. In other words, instead of God having a plan of salvation, you waited and prayed for some experience. It was an emotionally based thing, this emotionalism and experiential religion, and it paved the way for men like Charles Finney and others who began the practices of altar calls and inviting people to what came to be known as the anxious seat (later, the mourner’s bench) where you come and pray and pray until you pray through, finally obtaining salvation. Dwight Moody didn’t like the public pressure placed upon people using such means, so he and others around the turn of the century began what was called the inquiry room where people could be taken aside at these meetings by counselors to help them be saved.
In the twentieth century, enter Billy Sunday and later, Billy Graham, who popularized the well-known sinner’s prayer: wherever you are, just pray a simple prayer confessing your sins, inviting Christ into your heart. Friend, none of that is found in your Bible. There is not one example of conversion as the gospel was preached by the apostles beginning on the Day of Pentecost where anyone was ever told to pray just asking Christ to enter into their heart. No, rather we have clear examples time and time again throughout the book of Acts what happened when people came to believe in Christ through the preaching of the gospel and they turned from their sins in repentance, confessing Christ, and they were then baptized for the remission of their sins. What we have in the religious world today is all the result of a slow and gradual change and departure from the gospel preached in the first century to what we now see accepted by the majority of people in the modern age.
Friend, if you want to be saved, the gospel plan is simple. You can’t listen to men; you have to listen to what the New Testament teaches. It teaches that having heard the gospel–the good news that Christ died for your sins and rose again, would you believe it (John 8:24)? Would you make a decision today to repent of your sins, right now deciding in godly sorrow that you’re going to turn away from the life you’ve lived? Would you be ready to confess your faith in Christ, just as the eunuch in Acts 8 who wanted to be saved? Then today, would you arise and be baptized into Christ to have your sins washed away, as Saul and so many others did so long ago?
By His grace and through your faith that I just described, He will save you, He will wash you, and He will add you to His church—the one He established 2000 years ago before the many changes and innovations of men corrupted it. I hope you’ll let us assist you in doing that this very day.
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How and why did the early church practice baptism? As we continue a series on Innovations and the Divine Pattern, we have already shown how the government of the church was corrupted from an arrangement of qualified elders in each local church to a hierarchy of power, eventually becoming centered in Rome. This departure led to a multitude of doctrinal changes through the centuries and swept the church further into error and apostasy. One of the changes that resulted was in regard to the apostolic teaching about baptism in water. Within 200 years, the design of baptism began to change and by 1,300 years after the establishment of Christ’s church baptism officially became something other than what the early disciples practiced and it’s purpose changed. In this broadcast of Let the Bible Speak, we look at the slow evolution of thought concerning this sacred practice and why most religions today misrepresent the Bible’s teaching about baptism. Is your baptism from heaven or men?