As stated in an earlier editorial (March 1, 2009) we intend to use the Letters to the Editors column to bring to a conclusion our response to a respondent’s reaction to AIM’s recent video introducing the PRC to the viewing public.
The respondent voiced problems with two matters highlighted by the video, the first having to do with the value and need for creeds and confessions in the church’s great battle to maintain the testimony of the Truth, the other having to do with the need and importance of membership in the church institute.
In the February 15 issue of the SB we responded to this second all too common sentiment today that minimizes the vital importance of church membership, and in the March 1 issue we responded to the spirit that disparages both the need for confessions and creeds as well as the calling of believers to subscribe to these great statements of faith.
But we still want to say something about the biblical proof on which the respondent hangs his critical perspective of almost everything related to the church institute, in particular his reference to Romans 10:9..
To refresh our memories we quote the pertinent part.
The video said that God saves people by the administration of the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). And that is why it is important to find a good church. If the Bible is the only standard of truth, what about where it says “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved,”
I can’t find a passage of Scripture that states we must do anything other (or additional) than believe on Jesus Christ for our salvation.
We respond along the following lines.
First, it is apparent that the respondent has decided to embrace a very deficient definition of the salvation a true believer ought to be interested in. The last phrase makes plain that the brother has decided to speak of salvation simply in terms of being saved from condemnation, i.e., not being sent to hell. Saved in the sense of being justified, one’s sins forgiven. As if, once that has been achieved, with that the true believer can be content. “I am not going to hell, but am heaven-bound. And that’s all I am interested in or that the Lord Jesus requires of me.”
We ask, is this indeed the sum and substance of the apostolic faith? The believer has no more calling than to see to it that he is not going to be condemned when he dies? And the apostles certainly would not lay upon one who confesses a faith in their Lord Jesus any more burden (calling) than that?
Well, that may be the brother’s brand of Christianity at the moment (as a reaction to what he did not like to be reminded of by the video), but, he may be sure, it is not the apostolic brand, and we would pray it does not remain his own.
The respondent states he cannot find a passage that requires that one who would be saved is called to anything more than to believe (confess a faith in Christ). Therefore no one has the right to lay on the professing disciple of Christ any other requirement.
All he wants is one? We offer the following for his consideration—Acts 2:37, 38 (which comes at the conclusion of the apostle Peter’s sermon on Pentecost). “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter . . . what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent,and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
No less authority than the apostle Peter expected the true believer to add baptism to his faith. Evidently the apostle expected that true faith would want and seek baptism, not argue whether or not it was really necessary. How the apostle Peter would have responded to one who on Pentecost fervently professed his faith in Jesus as the Christ and then disputed the need for his being baptized I leave to the respondent’s imagination.
And significantly, the reference in Acts 2:38 is tobaptism, one of those sacraments referred to in the video, the administration of which ties one in with the instituted church and her Christ-ordained officebearers. There is no New Testament record of mere believers baptizing each other; Christ-ordained officebearers were always involved.
What Peter required on Pentecost, in keeping with his Lord’s words in Mark 16:16 (“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”), was to be the pattern for believers and the apostolic church from that day on.
No, we do not teach (nor does Scripture) that only one who has received baptismal water can be saved. There are infants of believers who die prior to being baptized. Some have confessed Christ on their deathbeds. But not being baptized due to exceptional circumstances is not the same asrefusing to be baptized. “I said ‘I believe.’ That is enough. I don’t need the sacraments.”
Such is what marks true faith? “I have confessed the Christ. I am saved. Don’t talk to me about anything else I am called to do.”
We assure the brother, it does not.
A quote from old Bishop Ryle (in connection with Luke 12:41-48) is much to the point. “The point is not [simply] what a man should do to be saved, but what ought a saved man to do? (emphasis Ryle) A saved man ought to be ‘careful to maintain good works’ (Tit. 3:8)”.
Titus is chock-full of the ‘good works’ to which young pastor Titus was to call his church (congregation). Amongst these was obeying the exhortation to stand against doctrinal errors (v. 10 speaks of rejecting heretics), while living in communion with like-minded believers (cf. chap. 2).
One final point. Whether the respondent realizes it or not, he does an injustice to Romans 10:9, as if (as stated above) the salvation the apostle has in mind is simply being saved from being under God’s wrath. That is part of it, but not the whole.
There is reason why the apostle, in reference to the Jesus we confess, uses the title “Lord” here. “Lord” is a confession whereby one places the whole of one’s life under the authority of this Risen Jesus.
Indeed, he who confesses with his mouth Jesus as his Lord shall be saved—saved from condemnation first of all, but then unto newness of life as well. And that means a believer is not content until the whole of his life has been brought into conformity with what the apostles require of New Testament believers.
One is reminded of Saul of Tarsus’ question put to the Lord Jesus, who was calling him on the Damascus road. “Lord, what wilt thou have me todo?” (Acts 9:6)
And a life of service in the gathering of Christ’s church followed, gathering believers who would unite themselves in a common understanding of and confession of this Lord Jesus and of living the Christian life.
Let every saved man take heed.