Do the Duck Dynasty Folks Preach a False Gospel?

Phil Robertson's enjoyable book. (Image from Goodreads.com)

Phil Robertson’s enjoyable book. (Image from Goodreads.com)

Faith. Family. Ducks.TM

Unless you live under the proverbial rock, you’ve heard about and/or seen the Robertsons. The Duck Dynasty program that focuses on the Robertson family and its Duck Commander duck call business has become a cultural phenomenon. In most episodes, these self-proclaimed rednecks goof around for twenty minutes or so before closing in prayer around the dinner table.

I watched the program for the first time back in January, and I’ve been hooked ever since—I’ve even read Phil’s book (Happy, Happy, Happy), and Willie and Korie’s book (The Duck Commander Family), and I still plan to pick up Uncle Si’s book. I don’t like so-called “reality television,” but I have to admit that I have truly enjoyed nearly every episode of Duck Dynasty. It’s very funny. I love the family values portrayed on the screen at a time when most shows tear down the family. And I love that they are so willing to talk about their faith and end nearly every show with a prayer “in Jesus’ name.”

The Robertsons have come under fire for being so open about their faith. Many folks are upset that the Robertsons are “forcing their religion on them.” As Uncle Si might say, “Hey Jack, if you don’t like it, change the channel.” Some liberals in the media have been shocked by the success of the program. How could a bunch of intelligent bearded rednecks who talk about God and guns all the time possibly be so popular? Um, maybe it’s because a large portion of Americans love God and their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, and they are tired of most of the trash that comes on TV. So it’s refreshing to see a family that loves each other through thick and thin.

Willie and Korie Robertson's entertaining book. (Cover image from Goodreads.com)

Willie and Korie Robertson’s entertaining book. (Image from Goodreads.com)

But the Robertsons’ faith has been called into question by some other people—Christians. Sadly, it’s not a surprise to see Christians attack other professing Christians since it is so common. I certainly believe that we need to lovingly and firmly point out errors. There are so many false teachers out there who are leading people astray and refuse to preach the gospel, such as many, if not most, of the “televangelists.” Do the Robertsons fall into this category? Many conservative Christians have accused them of believing and teaching a false gospel. Is this accurate? Are the Robertsons really wolves in sheep’s clothing?

The main point of contention is that the Robertson family has faithfully attended White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, and the Church of Christ “denomination” allegedly teaches baptismal regeneration.1 As such, these concerned Christians believe that the Robertsons (and the Church of Christ) add baptism to the gospel and are therefore guilty of preaching another gospel, an action condemned in Galatians 1:8–9 in the strongest possible terms.

Is it fair to claim that these folks believe in baptismal regeneration? It depends on who you ask and how you define baptismal regeneration. In its purest (or better “impurest”) form, baptismal regeneration is the belief that baptism itself regenerates a person. That is, the act of baptism is what saves them from their sin and gives them new life. Others would define baptismal regeneration as the belief that baptism is somehow intimately connected with the gospel, but baptism itself does not regenerate the person—God does when a person places saving faith in Christ alone. As such, those who hold to the latter view would often admit when pressed that a person could be saved without having been baptized.

It’s rather imprecise and unfair to claim that those in the Church of Christ believe in baptismal regeneration. In my experience, most of its members do not believe that baptism regenerates anyone. They would be much closer to the second definition given above—that baptism is so closely tied to salvation. I have met some people in the Church of Christ whose beliefs would fit the first view, although they wouldn’t use the term regeneration. From what I’ve seen, these people are definitely in the minority (and usually part of an older generation in the Church of Christ). I believe that the vast majority of younger generations in the Church of Christ (70 years old on down) would say that a person can be saved without being baptized. This is likely not as prevalent in the non-instrumental group, which tends to be more adamant in their position on baptism and more legalistic in general. I’m not positive, but based on images from their church’s website, I believe the church attended by the Robertsons does use instruments.

Uncle Si's book, which I just ordered and am looking forward to reading. (Image from Goodreads.com)

Uncle Si’s book, which I am looking forward to reading. If it’s half as funny as he is on the show, it will be a fun read. (Image from Goodreads.com)

Perhaps I should explain my experience with this group since I’ve mentioned it a few times. I grew up attending a “Christian Church” (part of the same “denomination”). I attended one of their church camps every summer for about ten years and later served as the dean for the camp. I earned two undergraduate degrees from a Church of Christ Bible college. I even pastored a Church of Christ congregation for about three years. They hired me even after I told them that I disagreed with them on a few major points of doctrine, including their view on baptism. I’m quite certain it would be accurate to say that I’ve had the baptism discussion/debate with Church of Christ members hundreds of time. I am very familiar with their beliefs. That being said, I do not believe, nor have I ever believed that a person must be baptized to be saved.

So let’s get back to the question at hand. Are the Robertsons false teachers? Have they believed, and do they promote, a false gospel that cannot save? Ultimately, only God knows where these individuals stand before Him. He is the only one who truly knows their hearts. For our part, we can look at the fruit of their lives and make educated guesses about whether they are saved or not. But this can be quite tricky when dealing with someone in the Church of Christ (or other groups for that matter). Let me give you an example based on numerous conversations I’ve had with members of this group.

Me: So you’re saying that baptism is necessary for salvation?
Them: Yes. Jesus commanded believers to be baptized, and so did Peter in Acts 2:38 (they might also go on to cite Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3–4; 1 Peter 3:21).
Me: So can a person be saved if they haven’t been baptized?2
Them: Yeah, but if they truly believe in Christ then they should obey His command to be baptized. If they don’t obey this command, are they really sincerely following Him?

Baptism is heavily emphasized in the Church of Christ, not necessarily because so many of them believe that the act of being baptized regenerates or saves a person, but because they look at Scripture and see that time and time again, baptism immediately follows a profession of faith. As such, for many members of this group, baptism is intimately linked with salvation because it was the first thing a person did upon believing the gospel. So if you were to hear someone from the Church of Christ give a report where they said that 12 people were baptized during a week of camp (or something like that), what many of them would mean is that 12 people heard and believed the gospel, and then obediently followed Christ’s command to be baptized.

To outsiders, this sounds like they are adding baptism to the gospel—and undoubtedly some of them are guilty of doing this, and I believe it is very wrong. But for most of those in the group, what they mean is that a person trusts in Christ alone to save them from their sins, and they immediately demonstrated that faith by being baptized. This emphasis on baptism has led to confusion. Some within the group hear about baptism so often that they end up thinking that a person is not saved until they are baptized (and it’s true that some of the group’s early members did teach this).

Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: What or whom are the Robertsons trusting for salvation? If they are depending on their baptism to save them, then they believe a false gospel and need to hear the true gospel. If they are trusting in Christ alone to save them from their sins and believe that baptism is an early expression of that faith, then they are brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to a view that overemphasizes baptism to the point that it confuses people both inside and outside of the movement.

It isn’t fair to lump all the Robertsons together because there are a lot of them, and they likely have some different views on the subject. I don’t know their hearts, but based on what I’ve seen from the Robertsons, I think they do trust in Christ alone for salvation, even though the way they might explain their faith may sound as if they have added baptism to the gospel message. For example, in his book, Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson has a chapter near the end of the book where he shares several stories about the people that he’s baptized in the river near their house. At first glance, this sounds like he is only concerned about getting people baptized, but when you look closer, you can see that this only takes place after he has opened the Bible with them and shared the good news of Christ’s death for our sins, His burial, and His Resurrection. Does Phil Robertson know what the gospel is? Check out this popular video:

From the six-minute mark until about the seven-minute mark, he says that the gospel is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. Guess what? That’s exactly how Paul defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4. So yes, I do believe he understands the gospel, even if his emphasis on baptism tends to confuse the issue (although he doesn’t mention baptism here).

With that being said, I think it’s important to point out that many of the Christians who are critical of the Robertsons or have condemned them are guilty of underemphasizing baptism or even performing it in a way that is not practiced in the New Testament. This may be due to an overreaction against those who emphasize baptism, but that’s not an acceptable excuse for ignoring, minimizing, or “mispracticing” one of Christ’s commands.

I appreciate the zeal for the purity of the gospel that some of these folks have, and I would encourage all Christians to examine their beliefs (and those of others) to make sure they are not adding to or subtracting from the gospel. However, we also need to remember to be gracious toward fellow believers. God has been exceedingly gracious toward us. How can we fail to demonstrate some of that grace toward others? It is arrogant to think that one has a perfect understanding of all things theological, and that anyone who interprets the Bible differently is necessarily lost. Thankfully, God does not require us to be perfect in our theology to be saved (that would certainly be a works-based salvation). Yes, there is one right interpretation of Scripture, and yes, there is only one true gospel that can save someone from sin: salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But not everyone articulates their understanding of the gospel in these exact words. In such cases, ask for clarification before condemning, and if you see the fruit of the Spirit exhibited strongly in their lives, then be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to them.

Finally, I have scores of friends who faithfully attend Churches of Christ and have several colleagues at work who faithfully attend one of these churches in the area. By seeing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives over many years, I am confident that they are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Based on what I’ve seen from the Robertsons, I think they would be in that camp too.


  1. The Church of Christ, Church of Christ non-instrumental, Christian Church, and Disciples of Christ “denominations” are part of the Restoration Movement (or Stone-Campbell Movement). Historically, they have not viewed themselves as a denomination since their goal was to restore the New Testament church. Nevertheless, they have essentially become multiple denominations and there are several differences between the groups. 

  2. In response to this question, I have heard a handful of hardline people say, “No. A person cannot be saved until they are baptized.” I have responded with a hypothetical situation. What if a person hears the gospel preached on Sunday morning, comes forward at the end of the service, repents, and professes faith in Christ in front of the congregation, and then when they are on their way to the baptistry, they suffer a heart attack and die? Would that person be saved? Most of the time, their response is, “Yes, they would be saved because God knows their hearts.” Although I have heard a couple people respond with, “I’m just glad I’m not the judge.” I think it is safe to say that the person who says this does not really understand the gospel, and they have added baptism as a requirement for salvation. What is interesting in their response is that it seems to indicate that they would condemn the person to hell while they believe that God would not. The fact that you think you would judge differently than God should be enough to let you know that your theology is askew. 


Comments

Do the Duck Dynasty Folks Preach a False Gospel? — 60 Comments

  1. Interesting read. My background: as opposed to “Born Again Christian”, I call myself a “WOC”, a warmed over Catholic. LOL.

    I was baptized (immersed) in the Christian Church in the mid-80s. I guess at the time it was a decision that I wanted to make, meaning I don’t put much stock in infant baptism. It simply felt like the thing to do, as put forth in Scriptures.

    I have always appreciated the plan of salvation as put forth by the Christian Church/Church of Christ. Taking ALL verses of the New Testament together, it seems clear to me that one must Hear the Word, Believe, Confess, Repent, and be Baptized. I accept it as it is stated and I try not to get hung up on who is saved, when they are saved, and like theological discussions. For sure if someone asks me, I will hold that baptism is commanded and is an integral part of the process.

    As for Biblical verses which don’t mention baptism (while many others do), could it just be that the early disciples were simply addressing non-Christians where they currently stood? For example, it makes no sense to preach baptism to those who currently don’t even believe. And true, there may be believers (those to whom the reality and mission of Christ rings true) but who have yet to repent. Or those who have repented but have not yet confessed?

    I guess I would not tell someone who proclaims to be a Christian that if they are not baptized they are not saved. I would, however, certainly point out ALL the scriptures which denote the plan of salvation.

    Bottom line to me: It IS commanded.

  2. Thanks for attempting to balance this out. Have grown up in a rural RM descended church, I really enjoy Duck Dynasty (even if their church of Christ is a different part of the RM movement to the aussie Church of Christ that I grew up). I have attended a string of Evangelical non RM churches for the last 30 years through various circumstances but have always maintained that baptism is normally/ideally part of the covenant creation action. I know we could trade scriptures on this for pages but my perceptions it comes down to presuppositions that most evangelical’s bring to scripture.

    Evangelicals believe…

    1) An exception means that there can be no rule. So the thief on the cross and Cornelius household seemingly being saved without baptism means it cannot be linked to becoming a Christian. To me they are both exceptional circumstances, the first simply was in no position to be baptized and the second needed God’s demonstration to accept them before the church would baptise them. (and once accepted they were immediately baptized).

    2) Doing anything physical in connections with the receiving the gospel is a work. Despite the fact that they have no problem with altar calls, praying sinner’s prayers, attending a crusade or a rally and connecting these temporarily with saving faith. (I was saved at the Billy Graham crusade, I was saved when I prayed, I was saved when I responded to the gospel). Please note that unlike all of the previous things which a are clearly things people do for themselves (pray, come to the front, raise your hand etc) baptism is something that is always received. God could have asked us to wash ourselves ritually, prayer for ourselves but he asked us to receive an immersion, to reflect that the gospel is like baptism, a thing received not a work earned.

    3) Evangelicals think that their symbolic/zwinglian view of baptism is the orthodox and historic view and “effective” baptism is an odd unorthodox aberration. Whereas in reality there is simply no recorded Christian for 1500 years that read scripture and is recorded as having understood baptism as merely symbolic. From the earliest non biblical Christian writer we have through to Luther, no one read symbolic baptism into scripture until Zwingli did so.

    4) Evangelicals assert that effective baptism is antithetical to salvation by grace through faith and that anyone who believes in effective baptism must lie outside the ethos of the reformation. Yet they herald Luther as starting that reformation, yet damn any today who holds to effective baptism. (Calvin’s views on baptism are complex but it can be well argued that Alexander Campbell’s was following a largely a Calvinian understanding of baptism. (I’m personally no fan of Calvin or Calvinism but the guy could lay out a logically consistent argument.))

    • Hi Anthony,
      I agree with some of your critique of Evangelicalism, although I think you have oversimplified matters in some cases. For example, it is true that many Evangelicals will point to Cornelius or the thief on the Cross as exceptions, and therefore, the exception becomes the rule. If that’s where they leave the argument, then I agree with you. However, in 1 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the gospel message with baptism in chapter 1, and then in the early verses chapter 15 where he explains the gospel message he preached, he does not mention baptism as part of it at all. So I would base my argument primarily on those two points, and then use Cornelius and the thief as examples.
      My main point of contention with strict Church of Christ person (if I can call them that, for lack of a better term), is that they might admit these two exceptions, but refuse to grant that their might be more of them. For example, if you witnessed to someone on a plane and that person genuninely accepts the gospel, confesses Christ, and asks for His forgiveness, but then the plane crashes before they can be baptized, would they be saved? I get the impression that you would affirm that they would certainly be saved. I’ve posed this to some folks who simply respond with, “I’m just glad I’m not the judge.” So they don’t even accept any exceptions. I fear that these folks may not really understand the gospel message.

  3. The Bible’s answer to the question”do you have to be baptized to be saved” is simple. On the day of Pentecost the Jews asked the question Men and brethren what shall we do? There is the question. Here is the answer: “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Now I think we can all agree no one can be saved or go to Heaven while still in their sins, so the answer is right there. We are obeying the command of Jesus, following his example and burying our old sinful self in the watery grave of baptism and rising out of the water a new man to walk in a newness of life. Yes baptism is necessary for salvation.

    • Theresa,
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Your response is a good representation of those within the Restoration Movement (Church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), and it is one that I have heard many, many times. There are several problems with your response.
      First, it takes a narrative passage and makes it didactic. In other words, you are drawing from one specific and very unique historical event at a certain place and time, and then applying that to every single person and place. Is it fair to do that? That’s one of the tricky things about building doctrine from narrative passages. In some instances, I think one can build a very strong case for doing it (e.g., the Great Commission was given specifically to the disciples, but they were told to make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He commanded, which would include the Great Commission—so the Great Commission would directly apply to us today). In other cases, it’s clear that we cannot do this (e.g., in Acts 2:46 we see that the disciples met daily in the temple, something we cannot do at this time since the temple has been destroyed.) So to hold your view, one would have to assume that this specific situation should be applied to all believers, in every place, throughout the past 2000 years. Based on other passages in Scripture that I’ll mention below, I don’t think it is right to do that here. [NOTE: I specifically chose the Great Commission because it mentions baptism, but there is only one imperative verb in the Greek of this passage (“make disciples”).]
      Second, the English doesn’t show all of the nuances in the Greek here. If we could have a “Southern accent” Bible, here is what Peter’s words would be like: “Repent y’all, and let each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for [or because of] the remission of sins; and y’all shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” I am not trying to make fun of people with a southern accent or make light of the text. The use of “y’all” helps us see the plural pronouns in this verse that can be hard to distinguish from the singular if “you” is used for both. Also, the word “for” could be understood as “because of.” In that case, Peter would be instructing them to be baptized because their sins had been forgiven upon repentance. This would seem to fit Acts 3:19 pretty well where Peter tells people to “Repent” and “be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” but he never mentions baptism there. So apparently sins can be blotted out without baptism.
      Third, if we are going to use this verse as the go-to verse on how a person must respond to the gospel to be saved, then I must ask where faith comes in? Peter doesn’t say anything about believing in Christ in his response.
      Fourth, your understanding of this verse does not mesh well with so many other passages of Scripture which speak of the gospel and one’s response to it without ever mentioning baptism (Acts 3:19, John 11:25–26; Romans 10:9, 13, all of 1 John which was written so that one could know they were saved, and many more).
      Fifth, Paul contrasted baptism with the gospel. He make it extremely clear that he did not believe baptism was part of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 1:14–17 he wrote the following:

      I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I do not know whether I baptized any other. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. (emphasis added)

      Sixth, later in that same book, Paul spelled out the gospel message that he preached to the Corinthians, which is the same one he had been given, and there is no mention of baptism.

      Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1–4)

      I could go on but I’ll leave it at that. Should a person be baptized when they believe the gospel message? Absolutely, positively, Yes. Would God allow someone into heaven who believed the Gospel but was not baptized? I would say, “Absolutely, positively, Yes.” As such, I do not believe baptism is necessary to be saved, but one should be baptized because it was commanded.

      Sincerely,
      Tim

      • The continuing to espouse a doctrine that leads others to not fulfill the command given by the apostles is troubling. A total disregard for God’s message is troubling, stating that He didn’t mean what He said. False teaching is false teaching no matter how sincere you are.

        The first gospel message preached in Acts 2 laid a great foundation for us to go off of and you claim it wasn’t anything but a suggestion. “What must we do to be saved?” As Theresa stated from God’s Word, “Repent AND BE BAPTIZED”. That was a foundational message given to the Jews on salvation and we know from scripture that not every account and not every word is recorded in scripture. To ignore this command is to thumb your nose at God’s Word. Why wasn’t it recorded in Acts 3? I don’t know, maybe because they were seized and arrested? But it is more convenient to claim that they didn’t mention it because baptism isn’t important. (1 Peter 3:21 disagrees with your doctrine) Acts 8:12-13 shows that that Phillip taught baptism as well. Verse 38 shows Phillip taught baptism. Acts 9:18 Saul was baptized. Acts 10:48 is a foundational passage to the Gentiles where they are COMMANDED to be baptized. Do you see what we have in the book of Acts that you are ignoring? A command given directly to the Jews to be baptized. A command given directly to Gentiles to be baptized. Acts 16:15 baptism was taught. Acts 16:33 also shows baptism. I won’t go through the rest of the book or the rest of the New Testament unless I need to, but to deny that it is a command is to ignore what is written plainly for all to see. The apostles taught the command to both Jews and Gentiles and you act like every time the apostles opened their mouth it should have been documented in scripture. I’ve shown two direct commands for baptism in Luke’s account alone. You are teaching something contrary to scripture and I do hope you will make it right before you lead others astray, casting their souls in jeopardy.

        I know you say “I’ve heard this many times” and act like it is something made up, but the Bible speaks clearly for itself and doesn’t need someone rationalizing a doctrine contrary to IT.

        • Jeff,

          You have made several false accusations here that I would like to address.

          First paragraph: You state, “The continuing to espouse a doctrine that leads others to not fulfill the command given by the apostles is troubling.” Nowhere did I encourage people not to get baptized. Read my final paragraph to Theresa. Two times I state that a person should be obedient to the command to be baptized. You state that I have a “total disregard for God’s message” and that I claim that “He didn’t mean what He said.” Apparently, a careful and civil discussion of disputed issues about the text equals, in your mind, a total disregard for God’s message. A total disregard for His message would be to never cite Scripture or attempt to make sense of a given passage. Yet, I laid out a case from Scripture why I disagree with what Theresa claimed. You certainly have a right to disagree, but don’t put words in my mouth (“He didn’t mean what He said”) or misrepresent what I wrote. It’s there for all to see, and I’ll let the readers decide if I have a total disregard for the text.

          Second paragraph: You claim that I claimed Peter’s words were just a suggestion. That is absolutely false. Nowhere did I claim that baptism was only a suggestion. I mentioned that it was a command. Again, anyone can look at my words to see if you have accurately described them. I gave reasons why I don’t agree with Theresa’s interpretation of Acts 2:38. I didn’t resort to misrepresenting her position or accuse her of claiming that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says. Was Acts 2 really the first gospel message that was preached? Didn’t Jesus declare the good news to people? But even if we go with your assertion, it does not follow that one must be baptized to be saved, since there are many places where baptism is not mentioned in connection with salvation, and as I pointed out, Paul explicitly disconnects baptism from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1. Should I accuse you of saying that Paul didn’t really mean what he said? Should I attack your integrity by saying that you have a total disregard for God’s message? Of course not. I believe that this is an issue that you are passionate about, but I think you need to realize that sincere Christians can have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with one another. Obviously, when it comes to getting the gospel message right, it is of extreme importance. This is why I quoted 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 where Paul spells out exactly what the gospel message is that saves people. And as I pointed out, baptism is not mentioned. So in light of Paul’s warning in Galatians 1:8–9, I would be very careful about adding baptism to the gospel message he delivered.
          Throughout the second paragraph, you list examples of people getting baptized, often in response to being instructed to do so. I have no problem with any of these. That is what happened, and yes, I believe we are commanded to be baptized, but I do not believe it is part of what one must do to be saved.
          Since you claim that my words may put someone’s soul in jeopardy, I’d like to ask you a very simple question. Imagine that you shared the gospel with someone on an airplane, and they believed the message and placed their faith in Christ, praying to God and pleading with Him to forgive their sins. What would happen if the plane crashed, killing everyone on board, before the person had an opportunity to be baptized? Do you think that person would go to heaven or would they be sentenced to an eternity in the lake of fire?
          Final paragraph: Yes, I have heard these arguments many, many times. I grew up in the Church of Christ/Christian Church. I have two undergraduate degrees from one of their colleges. I was a pastor for three years in a Church of Christ. I am not being flippant when I say that I’ve heard this before. I am merely trying to help someone understand that I have heard these same arguments over and over again, and I do not find them convincing because I don’t believe that particular interpretation of Acts 2:38 meshes with the rest of Scripture. I rarely, if ever, hear anyone from your perspective attempt to explain why Paul disconnected baptism from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1 and why he didn’t mention it in his description of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15. Maybe you could explain those to me. But I would ask that if you try to explain those, that you do it in a manner that honors the Lord rather than making false accusations against a believer as you have done in this post.

  4. We learn from Matthew 3:15 that baptism is a work of righteousness. And Titus 3:5 states that we are not saved by works of righteousness. We are taught elsewhere in Scripture that our righteousnesses are as filthy rags and therefore unacceptable to God. In light of these and numerous other passages we can be confident that neither baptism nor any other human effort can earn God’s favor. Baptism is a church ordinance through which the new believer gains entrance into fellowship with the local church. All Old Testament saints, the thief on the cross (and possibly others)were saved without the benefit of baptism. I have never known a new convert who was unwilling to follow the Lord in baptism, but I have known folks who after baptism lapsed into apostasy and even atheism, proving thereby that they were never truly saved. The mixture of works and grace for salvation is one of the most subtle and dangerous heresies ever invented by Satan. Please read and study Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

  5. Jesus wasn’t speaking of water baptism. Jesus said, John truly did baptize with water, but I shall baptize you with THE HOLY SPIRIT and with fire. He wasn’t talking about a wet water natural baptism. He meant a spiritual baptism. Water can’t save your soul, only Jesus can.

    • Jesus isn’t here anymore to give a Holy Spirit baptism though. John 3:5 Jesus told nicodemus one must be born of WATER to even see the kingdom of heaven. And in the book of Romans it says we are baptized into his death for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:5 one lord one faith one baptism. Since the bible does not contradict itself Ephesians 4:5 shows us that there is only one baptism we live by and that is water baptism.
      As we know Gods word is in perfect harmony so just because the bible says baptism is needed for salvation and not another does not mean we disregard baptism all together. Believing and confessing are only part of the plan of salvation repentance and baptism are just as important.

      • Hi Christian,
        I don’t think anyone on here has proposed disregarding baptism altogether. Also, it is a huge assumption to say that being “born of water” refers to baptism. If Jesus is speaking of water baptism here, then He must also be speaking of baptism by the Spirit as well. This would go against your understanding of Ephesians 4:5.

      • Throughout Scripture the term “water” is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Such is the case in John 3:5. On another point, I’m still waiting for any Campbellite to explain how the Old Testament saints and the thief on the cross were saved without baptism.

  6. I believe it is unfair to hang your argument against the Robertson’s and the “church of Christ” on baptism alone. The bible clearly states that it is not possible to write everything down and the gospels prove this as their different authors focus on different aspects of the same event.

    I believe most “church of Christ” folks don’t hang their hat on baptism, so much as the steps in the plan of salvation. It is not just a “poof” you are saved thing. You must study, reflect, repent (because what good is believing if you do not repent), confess you believe Jesus is the Son of God. You must take all the examples of people joining the church throughout the new testament. For you to disregard the baptism statement in one verse, is equivalent to dropping other steps in other versus. It sounds to me as if you are stepping all around the main point, but you are shooting for “Once saved, always saved”. Again, semantics, but for people like you who try to take a short-cut to receiving the Holy Spirit – and that is what we believe you receive upon baptism – not Jesus, the Holy Spirit – don’t misrepresent our beliefs. We simply speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where it is silent. Putting all those versus together it is clear one must hear the Word, believe, repent, confess, be baptized and then continue to live a Christian based life. I am not here to defend the Robertson’s, as I don’t know their full beliefs, but they are getting a bum wrap for just quoting and preaching “all” of the versus God has given us to bring us to salvation. We are all so close, why must we fight over small issues, why not direct our efforts toward the large establishments who openly teach a false religion (in my opinion, one would be the Catholic church) and try to help them find their way to the truth of the Word?

    • Kim,
      I think I’ve been very fair to most “Church of Christ” folks in giving them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t hang their hats on baptism. You can read through the comments and the blog post itself to see this. But to accuse me of short-cutting my way to the Holy Spirit is rather ridiculous. Nowhere did I encourage anyone to refrain from baptism. You say that you believe a person receives the Holy Spirit at baptism, but we have a clear example in the Bible of people who received the Holy Spirit before being baptized (Acts 10:44–48). Also, where has this post given any indication that I’m shooting for a “once saved, always saved” theology? While I wholeheartedly affirm the doctrine of eternal security, that has not been the point of this post.
      Here’s the question that matters when it comes to the issue of baptism. Can a person be saved if they have not been baptized? I say that they certainly can be saved, but they should still be baptized out of obedience to Christ and to publicly declare their faith. And you say?

    • Hi Peggy,
      No, the Church of Christ did not come from Mormonism. The Church of Christ, also called the Restoration Movement or the Stone-Campbell Movement, started a little earlier than Mormonism. Mormonism and some of its offshoots were at times called the Church of Christ, but they were not ever tied to the Restoration Movement. There is a weak connection between the groups in their early days, though nothing that should be considered any type of official affiliation. One of the key figures in early Mormonism was Sidney Rigdon. In 1830, Rigdon was preaching for a Restoration Movement church when he converted to Mormonism and led many members of his congregation into Mormonism. He soon became a spokesperson for Joseph Smith’s group.

  7. Tim,I was delighted to read your comments about misused
    versus in the bible i.e. 2chron. 7:14,1st Corintians 2:9,
    and your emphasis on studying in ( context }so important!!
    But, something is amiss. After 2 hrs. of reading replies
    and comments starting with Duck Dynasty article I was exhausted at the mental energy that was spent in explaining away baptism as part of God’s plan of redemption for man. It’s very simple.ex. Acts 2:38
    The question ” What must we do? Peter said repent and be
    baptized everyone of you for the remission of sins and
    the gift of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and baptism are
    joined together with the coordinating conjunction ” AND”
    meaning not one without the other unto the forgiveness
    of their sin.It is incorrect to say baptism is for rem
    ission of sin. It’s both R.AND B.to be the recipient
    of the shed blood of Christ by this command. Rom.6:1-6
    and Colossians 2:12,13 are in perfect harmony with Acts
    2:38,39 as well as John 3:5,Gal.3:26,27.There are many others.
    Oh by the way context?? Paul in no way was dimenishing
    baptism He was only clarifying why He didn’t baptize
    more. By this time there were others to do the baptizing
    as a result of His preaching the Gospel.
    Based on the energy that was expended to the contrary
    I know this wont change any minds. I had to make the effort. May God accept my intention to relate His Word

    ” Ye shall know the TRUTH and the TRUTH shall make us free!!!

    • Barry, thanks for taking the time to read through the article and comments and for taking the time to comment. If Peter really believed that baptism is what one needed to do to have their sins removed (along with repentance), why didn’t he mention it in the next chapter of Acts? How come he only told the people in Acts 3:19 to repent and be converted? The same is true with so many other passages that do not mention baptism when the gospel is given.
      If you read through the comments, then you will know that I truly have heard these arguments hundreds of times before, and I don’t find them to be compelling. I don’t mean that to sound patronizing but sincere. I would agree with you about the context of Paul’s comment on baptism in 1 Corinthians 1, but I believe you missed the bigger point. Paul separated baptism from the message of the gospel that he was sent to preach.

    • There are many examples of people who were not baptized but save by faith, The their on the cross, all the old testament saints mentioned in Hebrew 11. Do I have to take the Lords Supper on a regular basis to be saved as well? I think we take the Lord’s supper and get baptized because we are already saved. Or am I simply barking up the wrong tree?

      • Sorry for the spelling erors here is the correction
        There are many examples of people who were not baptized but saved by faith, The theif on the cross, all the old testament saints mentioned in Hebrew 11. Do I have to take the Lords Supper on a regular basis to be saved as well? He did tell us to do it to remember him. Is it that we take the Lord’s supper and get baptized because we are already saved. Or am I simply barking up the wrong tree?

        • How could the thief on the cross be baptized into Jesus. The idea of baptism wasn’t fully realized until Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. We are baptized into his death and raised a new creation just as Christ was.

          Tim, I know you said you find the arguments to not be compelling, and that is a shame that you don’t find the word of God to be compelling and seek to follow it. You have tried to explain away baptism when looking at “he that believes and is baptized will be saved but he that believes not will be condemned” by saying “it doesn’t say that “he that isn’t baptized will be condemned, just he that doesn’t believe”. That is an awful argument. If you do not believe, why in the world would you be baptized?? He that does A and B will be saved. He that doesn’t do A will obviously not do B. This is basic common sense. This explaining away a DIRECT COMMAND by God through His inspired writing is inexcusable and leading many astray. Do you believe Luke recorded every word that Paul spoke to each group he communicated with? Do you believe that we can pick and choose which commands we should follow? Do you believe that we Paul told people to believe and be baptized to be saved but didn’t really mean it? Or when we read “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”, that is just a mistranslation or was Peter just suggesting that baptism saves you if you are already saved?

          • Jeff,
            I find the word of God to be absolutely compelling, when rightly interpreted. You say that my examination of Mark 16:16 is an “awful argument,” but it is actually a very sound argument because it gets to the heart of the issue. If you are going to say that a person who believes but is not baptized is not saved and then cite Mark 16:16 as proof, you have misused Scripture since that verse does not address such a person. Furthermore, that passage is part of the questionable long ending of Mark, so I would be reluctant to build a case from these verses that may not have actually been part of his gospel. Also, are you claiming that there aren’t people who have been baptized who aren’t true believers? I know many people that I grew up with who have been baptized and yet show no fruit of the gospel in their lives.
            Also, you have conflated a “direct command” with a doctrinal position. Are you assuming that I have not been baptized or that I would refuse to tell others that they should be baptized? I have been baptized. I have baptized others, and I will continue to teach its importance. I just do not agree with you that it is part of the gospel message. Paul did not include it in his summation of the gospel message he preached to the Corinthians, and he even contrasted his preaching of the gospel with baptism. John did not even mention it in his first epistle which was written to believers so that they could know that they have eternal life.
            Yes, I’ve heard all the verses from my dear friends who believe baptism is an essential part of the gospel message. I even listed them in the blog post. I simply do not believe you are properly interpreting them, because your position forces contradictions into too many other passages that speak of salvation being a result of faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (with no mention of baptism). I am not ridiculing you or saying that you don’t believe the Bible is compelling. What I’m saying is that we interpret a handful of passages differently, and I have had this conversation hundreds of times and am very comfortable with my position on these matters.

    • Hi Ryan,
      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
      I believe we should be baptized because we have been forgiven of our sins. There are several ways to understand Acts 2:38. To assume that it means a person must be baptized to be saved would contradict dozens of other passages in Scripture where the gospel is shared and baptism is never mentioned.
      Paul specifically told the Corinthians that the gospel he preached to them and the one that saved them when they believed it was that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). He also told them that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17). So Paul makes it very clear that baptism is not part of the gospel, although it should be one’s response to the gospel.

  8. the duck people are right along with 90% of the current churches teaching a man created gospel. The Gospel that the Bible teaches is to believe that Jesus of the New Testament is the promised Messiah of the Old testament and will give Eternal life to anyone who will trust in Him for Eternal life. The only book of the Bible (The Gospel of John) whose stated purpose for being written is to tell people (unbelievers) how to have Eternal Life
    John 20: 30, 31
    20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
    20:31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name

    The churches today are adding to the Gospel of belief: repentance, confession of Christ, baptism, admitting that you are a sinner, saying a prayer, making Christ your lord (Lordship salvation), etc.. and they are using verses from books of the Bible that were written to believers concerning discipleship in the life of the believer not to be used in telling an unbeliever how to have Eternal Life.

    The Gospel of John states over 90 times That Eternal life is given to the one who believes that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and gives (free no action required) Eternal Life to anyone who will trust in Him for Eternal Life.
    John
    3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
    3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved
    3:18 The one who believes in him is not condemned. The one who does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God
    John
    6:27 Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life – the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.”
    6:28 So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?”
    6:29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires – to believe in the one whom he sent.”
    John
    6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.
    John
    6:40 For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
    John
    6:47 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes in me has eternal life.

  9. I believe Paul said it best. We can beat around the bush on this, but can something be added to FAITH in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it remain the same gospel that Paul preached? The only answer is NO. We have been commanded to walk guard around and defend, and CONTEND (earnestly strive)for the Shed Blood of Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection as the FAITH ONCE GIVEN TO THE SAINTS. (Jude 1:3) A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I do not see how you can be much plainer than that. It is dangerous to tamper with God’s free gift by adding ANYHTING ELSE to it. Paul fought “circumsicion” and the Law of Moses and claimed those who added it to his Gospel were “false brethren”.(fake believers) A perverted gospel is so dangerous Paul put a curse on those who corrupt it.! So why the debate?
    If we are to treat people as individuals, then we should challenge them INDIVIDUALLY about the dangers of a FALSE GOSPEL that they are listening to each week and tell them to come out from among them. False gospels bear fruit of false salvations! We are too tolerant when it comes to a dangerous doctrine that will lead to eternal consequences. I am with Paul; on this one 100%!

    • I completely agree with you, and I think the Duck Dynasty guys would agree as well. The reason for the debate is that it simply isn’t clear that they have added anything to the gospel.

  10. Tim,
    You’ve bitten off a whole lot to chew here and you are remaining steadfastly fair and balanced even in your replies to the comments. Kudos to you. That’s more a testament to your heart than your intelligence. Although you do have it going on in the intelligence arena as well, to be sure 🙂
    Like you, I am also a former “member” of the “Church of Christ”, and more recently the Christian Church. I can see it from all sides actually (was in ministry in the Church of Christ). We really need to start seeing people from all denominations as INDIVIDUALS and not as denominational members. That is how God views each one of us after all. Surely we must know that on judgement day God isn’t going to look in the Book of life to see if we followed Church of Christ doctrine.
    In fact, in one very powerful and poignant section of scripture where Jesus is, in fact, dealing with the very subject of judgement, the criteria clearly doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with doctrine. NOW, don’t get me wrong, doctrine is important, extremely important, we need to study to show ourselves approved and to the best of our ability, and according to our own conscience, find out what we believe is the truth, and teach it as humbly and as balanced as we possibly can. ALWAYS leaving room for growth in ourselves. For I can guarantee you that in 5 years some of my understanding and views will have changed. They had better for my understanding in not yet perfect and if I am truly growing in the Lord, I will allow Him to take me all the way into all truth. What I believed 5, 10, 15 years ago I have altered my views on somewhat. That is life, we change and grow. If we do not allow for this, we have come to a standstill and how can God truly work with that? For our own benefit, we must be open to learning, growing, and evolving. Some fundamental things we embraced at the beginning are non-negotiables for us and we may never change our view points on those, but in other areas change may be needed for our own good. For God loves us so much and everything he does in our lives, he does for our own good.

    So to get back to the passage of scripture concerning God’s judgement toward us and his stated criteria, it is found in Matthew 25:

    31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

    34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

    44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

    45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

    46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

    Anybody emphasizing THIS? Perhaps our debates should go something like: “Uhhh, should we feed the hungry 1 or 3 times a day? Should we go into only maximum security prisons? Should we feed the thirsty only on hot days?” Seriously, isn’t this Jesus’ emphasis? Compassion seems to be the criteria on judgement day, not doctrine.
    In fact, didn’t Paul say that if you have perfect knowledge (doctrine), but do not have love (compassion), then you are just a noise maker. You’re just making noise, blah, blah, blah. You start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Don’t be a noise maker.(a clanging symbol). Start DOING out of the goodness of your heart! Let God take up the slack in your imperfect doctrinal views (for we all have them!).
    I truly appreciate where you are coming from Tim, and people of all denominations need to start laying down our swords of “right” and pick up, instead,the palm branches of love. How about we start fighting over who is going to help whom first, and who is going to sell more possessions to feed the poor. THIS is where the North American church really needs the most help. (we’re so materialistic and selfish as a whole, that we hardly look any different from the world). This is where we are more direly off course. Grace will cover our doctrinal errors, and a good heart (love) will cover a multitude of sins (we all have those too!).
    May God help us all as He takes us on our own individual journeys in order to achieve His ultimate goal to further our growth, understanding, and grace(fulness).
    This will fall on many deaf ears, but to those who have ears to hear…..

  11. Thank you for what seems to me a fair and balanced and accurate response to the accusations of Duck Dynasty folks sharing THEIR faith and their understanding of Scripture, for which they have every right to do. I have noted that they make no claim to being a theologian and do not identify themselves with a denomination, so I suspect they aren’t interested in being labeled either. And they are “in luck” in that God makes no claim that anyone on this or any other post is qualified to be their teacher…the Holy Spirit is their teacher if they are in Christ. Now, we can all rest easy…The Master before whom these men stand or fall is adequate for the job, right?

    Shouldn’t the church be more concerned with Christian critics who publically denounce these men before unbelievers? Doesn’t Paul warn against that? Apollos didn’t quite have it all right, yet God was using him eloquently. Fortunately for the church and all those touched by his ministry, Apollos wasn’t publically mocked by Aquila and Priscilla, but taken aside and explained the Gospel more clearly. Looks like a good model to me…praying privately for the DD guys and asking God to teach them more accurately if they are wrong … Offering to be a teacher IF God gives opportunity. Also asking Him to break our own pride enough to teach us more accurately if we are the ones in the wrong.

    But instead, arrogant men take stands on issues that the more humble servant of God will admit cannot be reconciled by human reasoning. Rather than live with the tensions of their own limited understanding, they insist “they” have solved some mystery of God in Scripture. How? By simply ignoring, dismissing, or twisting beyond recognition those verses that don’t agree with their position. Yes, I’m even talking about those otherwise great theologians, denominationally revered…Calvin, Luther, Augustine. Yet greater men throughout history sought God for understanding for the whole Body of Christ. From them we all benefitted not from yet another denomination but from great doctrinal truths of the diety and humanity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. Were our modern-day mavericks as interested in divine revelation of God’s mysteries in Scripture as they are of being right through human reasoning, the church would be less like scattered body parts and more like a living, organism rightly connected to the head.

    So to you Pharisees who have drawn a following, started a faction and called it a “denomination,” declared yourself right and everyone who disagrees wrong, made a public spectacle of other believers, and wondered why the unbelieving culture looks at Christians with disgust and contempt (in spite of your great learning), here is a message. Your pride and conceit and jealousy in this matter is wrapped around you like a neon shroud. In short…you’re naked, Jack.

  12. I’m a member of the churchof Christ and I don’t agree with a few of your views but I do want to commend you for being kind and gracious and keeping this focused on God’s word. It’s refreshing. Thank you.

    • Thanks Jules! We’re on the same team, and one day the Lord will straighten us all out. Until then, may we learn to treat each other as Jesus prayed that we would. God bless!

      • I think these two comments from Jules and then back from Tim Chaffey succinctly identify the take-away for me from a long read of comments regarding baptism, faith, grace, and other core pieces of the Christian religion. Whenever I find myself doubting my faith because there is so much controversy among people of faith and so much enmity among people who disagree with one another, I remind myself that God’s plan is often beyond my comprehension as a mere human being and that someday it will all be clear to us. At that time God will be the only judge. Until then, I can only do the best I can to follow the teachings of Jesus, loving and respecting my fellow men and women on this earth, whether they claim to be Christian or some other religion or no religion at all. God is in control and God is Good and Just! We’ll understand it all by and by!

  13. I had noticed on two different videos on youtube, where Phil and I believe it was Jace, spoke at two different venues and when they described baptizing the new believers, they said “I baptized them into Christ” . We are commanded to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit. Many that I have come into contact with from the church of Christ believe that water baptism is actually how Christ gets into you. Aka you receive Christ through the baptism itself. I have heard it said that it is the culminating act of salvation. When I heard these gentlemen phrase it this way, it gave me pause. When the bible says, “repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins ” , I believe that in this sense that baptism does save you, but it is being immersed into the Father Son and Holy Spirit not into water.This is something that happens long before water baptism. We receive Christ at the moment of true belief, when we begin to trust in Him alone for our salvation But as those did in biblical times and how we should do today, we should willingly be baptized to unashamedly identify ourselves with our Savior. The bible also describes baptism as being a like figure. I take this mention of baptism to be a physical act that is a reflection of what has already taken place in us. We were immersed into Christ through our genuine belief (trusting) in Him alone for forgiveness and eternal life, then we perform an outward act of obedience that reflects this event. Again my concerns would be with the phraseology that they have used, that might point to a misunderstanding of at what point one is actually saved. If they Believe that one is baptized into Christ by another person, this sounds like baptismal regeneration, right?

    All of Your comments and views are appreciated

  14. MOST excellent post! My very wise pastor (one of the smartest and most biblical grounded man I have ever met) puts it this way (I went to him when our band had been asked to play for a larger fringish denomination) .. “Lisa, none of us have the corner on the market of truth .. we will all have a little egg on our face (or perhaps a little egg on our faith) when we get there” I believe those matters are best covered by 2 timothy … 23″ Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” because 14 “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”

    • Thanks for the kind and encouraging words Lisa! I think your pastor was wise to point out that none of us have the corner on the market when it comes to accurately interpreting Scripture. We’d like to think we do, but it’s important to remain humble in our handling of difficult passages while attempting to love fellow believers like God has loved us.

  15. To me it is this simple. If baptism is a REQUIREMENT for salvation, then our salvation is based on Jesus PLUS. If salvation requires anything in addition to Jesus, then Jesus is not sufficient for salvation.
    In the Church of Christ I was raised in, taking communion every Sunday was HOW you maintained your salvation. Everyone was watched by the Elders as communion was passed, and those who did not partake were questioned.

    • Hi Kenny,
      To reiterate what I mentioned in the post, if a person is trusting in something/someone other than Christ to save them, then they need to hear the true gospel. But if they are relying on Christ to save them, even if they don’t articulate it precisely the way many of us are comfortable hearing, then they are genuine believers, although they may need to be lovingly corrected. With many people in the C of C, the whole issue is much more nuanced because of the confusion over baptism. Since many of them view baptism as a demonstration or expression of their faith (not a work and not even necessarily an absolute “must” for salvation) then it wouldn’t be fair to say that they believe one absolutely has to be baptized to be saved (although some do say that, as is clear from some of the other comments on this post). But not even the leading figure of the Restoration Movement, Alexander Campbell, went that far. Look at what he had to say about others who held to a different view on baptism:

      I cannot, therefore, make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion into the name of the father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and in my heart regard all that have been sprinkled in infancy without their own knowledge and consent, as aliens from Christ and the well-grounded hope of heaven. Alexander Campbell’s Lunenburg Letter, 1837.

      So even though he thought baptism was extremely important and part of the appropriate response to the gospel message, he was unwilling to say that those who held to a different view were not saved. The logical conclusion is that he didn’t believe that a person absolutely had to be baptized to be saved.
      Certainly not all C of C hold to the exact same views as Campbell on baptism, or other issues like communion as you pointed out.

    • It is the Elders’ responsibility for the flock. I think you may be misinterpreting their watching and approaching those who were baptized, but did not partake of the Lord’s Supper. If we partake in an unworthy manner we eat unto our own damnation. I, as a church of Christ member, have abstained when I do not feel spiritually worthy due to something in my life with which I am struggling at the time. Perhaps the Elders go to those who do not partake, not because taking communion is what is required for salvation (never taught in any church of Christ I attended), but because they were concerned for that member of the flock, and wished to offer support and guidance.

  16. Also, there is only ONE church, and that is the one Christ is building (Matt 16:13-20)….and it will have people from all different kind of denominations, Catholic and non church attendees. People want to get hung up on titles, but I tell you that your denomination will not get you into heaven, it’s only whether we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior that matters.

  17. Having married into a Church of Christ family (five generations) and having come from a Baptist upbringing, I can totally relate to the baptism arguments. I agree 110% with your assessment of not lumping them all together in the same group, as I have equally met many who do not think baptism is absolute for salvation….necessary yes, as a believer, but not to become a believer.

    My main beef comes with their eschatological view points.

    They will utterly cling to “we believe the whole word of God” argument, and then dismiss roughly 27% of the bible which is prophetic, because they haven’t been taught that thru their upbringing. Most CoC preachers and elders are either preterists (Which comes from Roman Catholicism) or Amillennialists (also Roman Catholic). This to me is that denominations biggest reason they are dying as a denomination. The world is falling apart, and people want answers for the hope that lies within us. You can’t give them much more than the basics if your going to write off 27% of your bible.

    • Hi Pete,
      It has been my experience that most of them would hold to an amillennial view, although I’m not sure that there’s much of an official view for them on eschatology. One of my pastors told me years ago that he was a “panmillennial” (however it pans out). He handed me a copy of Hendriksen’s More Than Conquerors to read for a description of something that was close to his view. This book is from an amillennial perspective.
      As you probably noticed, it’s very rare to ever find a statement of faith among CofC. Their founders abhorred creeds and that has carried on to many of them today, so I think there’s a little more diversity on eschatology in these congregations.

  18. I believe in baptismal regeneration and that this is clearly taught in Scripture. By the way, as you correctly point out, the Bible does not say if you believe and drive a sundayschool bus you will be saved, but it does say if you believe and are baptized you will be saved.

      • the thief on the cross died before Christ was risen from the dead.
        how could he possibly be baptized into the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
        this is a typical argument against the necessity of baptism.
        read, Read, READ for yourself the many examples of conversion in the New Testament.
        1 peter 3:21

        • How very true of you Ted! The thief was still living under the law of Moses (if he was a Jew) or the Patriarchal Law (if he was a Gentile). Thus the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2) had not gone into effect because the law of Christ is dependent upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ!

  19. I think the problem that so many run into is not understanding the term “church of Christ”. It is not a name of a group of people that meet at a particular location but a description of who they are. You keep using ‘Church of Christ (instrumental)(non-instrumental) as if that is the title of their church. Sadly, in many cases that is the case and even more sadly many Christians don’t understand the distinction. The church of Christ is simply the ecclesia of Christ. Those who are called of Christ. It is a group of Christians who have been called out of the world and into Christ, nothing more and nothing less.

    As for baptism not being essential to salvation, you said it is heavily emphasized in the church of Christ. There is a reason for that and you even used the verse! “Corresponding to this, baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Either the Bible is inaccurate and baptism does not save you or it is accurate and baptism does save you. 1 Peter 3:21 says it saves you. Acts 2:38 says that it saves you. In fact every passage you used says this, so is the Bible the infallible Word of God or not?

    • Jeff,
      The problem isn’t based on a misunderstanding of the term “Church of Christ.” I’m not going to get dragged into a silly game of semantics on this. The fact of the matter is that there are a group of professing believers who belong to fellowships that use the name “Church of Christ.” Some of these believe you can use instruments and some of them believe that you cannot. Then there are other branches of this movement that call themselves “Christian Church” or “Disciples of Christ.” In this article, and in the comments that follow, I am using the term “Church of Christ” to refer to that group. I made that very clear in the blog post and elaborated in one of the footnotes. You can try to play little word games to change that, but in order to effectively communicate, we need to use terminology that will make sense to people. In this case, it is widely recognized among Christians that there is a “denomination” (or several of them, and yes, I know they don’t like to call themselves a denomination, which is why I’ve placed it in quotes) that use the name “Church of Christ.” I’ve already acknowledged earlier that the true church of Jesus Christ is made up of those who are born again believers, regardless of what denomination or fellowship they may be a part of.
      Regarding the verses that I mentioned…Do you think I would even mention them in a post if I didn’t feel comfortable about my view of these verses? You’ve committed the fallacy of bifurcation by claiming that either the Bible is inaccurate or that baptism does save you. There is a third option—that you are incorrectly interpreting those passages.
      What if I were to use the same argument against you after mentioning Romans 10:9, or Ephesians 2:8–9, or John 3:16, or the entire book of 1 John (which was written so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13) — and baptism is never mentioned)? Should I say that the Bible is wrong because none of these mention baptism? How about Acts 3:19? Peter tells people to repent and be converted so that their sins would be blotted out (no mention of baptism). How about Acts 16:31? Paul tells the Philippian jailer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved…” Yes, the jailer and his family were baptized later that night but that was “descriptive” of what happened, not “prescriptive” in how the jailer was to be saved.
      Perhaps I’ll need to write a blog post dealing with the main 5 or 6 verses used by people who think that one must be baptized to be saved (add John 3:5–6 to the list cited in the post). I’m not going to do it right here, but those verses cited in the blog post do not teach what you claim they do.

      • My response would be simple. You take what the Word of God says, as a whole, and not exclude what you disagree with. What does His Word tell us we need to do to be saved? These passages you just mentioned tell us what is required to be saved but that is not all that is required, now is it? If God’s Word says “He that believes AND is baptized will be saved”, are you suggesting that it should be interpreted differently than exactly what it says? The word games are not being played by me, sir. I believe we shouldn’t selectively pick and choose which passages we follow because if we add to or take away from His Word… well you know.

        • Jeff,
          There’s no reason to get snippy here. If my previous response came across that way, I apologize since that was not my intent. Maybe your post isn’t meant that way either, but it seems to come across that way.
          I can tell you that I fully expected you to say that you have to take what the Word of God says as a whole. I mentioned in the post that I’ve had this conversation hundreds of times, and I’ve heard this response over and over again. I agree that we need to take God’s Word as a whole, and that’s the main reason why I believe the idea that one must be baptized to be saved is not accurate. I don’t believe we should pick and choose which verses we believe, but we do need to carefully study in an effort to properly interpret the Bible. And as I mentioned in the post, we need to be gracious toward sincere fellow believers who may have a different interpretation on certain passages.
          That response (take Scripture as a whole) misses the point of the argument. The fact is that those verses I cited in my previous response show that numerous people in Scripture had the gospel shared with them and the Bible does not mention baptism as being part of that message. So you can say that we need to take it as a whole, but were these individuals told that they need to be baptized to be saved? There’s no mention of that in Scripture, so you have to add that to His Word, which is something you just cautioned me about. So if Peter never mentioned baptism to the folks in Acts 3, or John never mentioned it to his audience in 1 John, or Paul didn’t mention it as part of the gospel message that he preached, by which people were saved (1 Corinthians 15:1–4, and he even told the Corinthians that God didn’t send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel — thus distinguishing between the two), then why should we add to their message?
          Finally, thanks for proving my point about having an improper interpretation of these verses. You cited the first half of Mark 16:16 — “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Does this verse really teach what you claim? Not at all. Let’s take a look.
          First, it comes from the last 12 verses of Mark’s Gospel, which as most Bibles will inform the reader, are part of a disputed section since several different endings have been found for Mark’s Gospel. So it may be unwise to build a case from these verses. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that this is the correct ending.
          Second, let’s look at what Jesus says there. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” I agree 100%, because salvation is received by faith alone (“believes”) in Christ alone. He doesn’t say that baptism is a requirement for salvation. He could have said, “He who believes and goes to church will be saved.” I’m not trying to make light of His words, but I want to make the point that it is one’s belief in Christ that leads to salvation — not baptism. Let’s break this verse down a little bit. What does it say about the following people?
          He who believes and is baptized — Saved
          He who believes and is not baptized — Not mentioned at all
          He who does not believe — not saved
          He who does not believe and is not baptized — not saved (although the verse doesn’t specifically mention this person, it would follow logically since they do not believe).
          So the person who believes in Christ and has not been baptized is not even addressed in this verse. How can you say that they wouldn’t be saved when Jesus doesn’t even address them? We have examples of people in Scripture who were saved without having been baptized like the thief on the Cross (I know, that was before Christ’s Resurrection or before Pentecost) and the group at the end of Acts 10 who were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues prior to being baptized.
          Again, I’m not going to go through each of those verses from the blog post here. It will get too long and tedious, so I’ll probably just write an entire post on the subject in the coming weeks.

          • Since you will write a separate blog on it I won’t comment anymore than this.
            ” He could have said, “He who believes and goes to church will be saved.” I’m not trying to make light of His words, but I want to make the point that it is one’s belief in Christ that leads to salvation — not baptism.”

            He could have, but he didn’t and you are making light of His words. You are saying that he didn’t mean what he said. He said He who believes AND is baptized is saved. You are saying that the only important word in there is believes. That is offensive to the Word of God. What this verse tells us is explicitly who will be saved, those who believe and are baptized. You can spin it in any other way but it is ignoring His own words. It is ones belief in Christ that leads them to fulfill what they are commanded to do, be baptized, confess, etc. Belief alone is not the lone essential point of salvation as even the demons believe.

            I look forward to your future blog on this subject.

          • So instead of dealing with the actual argument, you try to find something to nitpick? I wasn’t making light of His words in any way. Like I said before, I completely agree that a person who believes in Christ and is baptized will be saved. No question. Just as I believe that someone who believes in Christ and faithfully attends church, or witnesses to his neighbor, or drives a school bus, etc. will be saved because salvation is contingent upon genuine belief (i.e. saving faith) in Christ. I wasn’t saying that the only important word in the statement is “believes.” I took the time to point out to you that the statement doesn’t say anything about the person who believes and is not baptized. As such, it doesn’t even address the issue at hand. It is a descriptive statement from Jesus (the person who does believe and is baptized will be saved), not a prescriptive statement (one must believe and be baptized in order to be saved). The condemnation mentioned in the second part of the verse is due to a refusal to believe, not a refusal to be baptized. This isn’t spin. This isn’t ignoring words or disbelieving them. It’s a sober attempt to rightly divide the word of truth. And that interpretation is consistent with the rest of Scripture, whereas your view contradicts it in dozens of places.
            From your view, I feel bad for all those people that were told by Jesus and others that they must believe in Christ without ever mentioning baptism.
            John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
            John 5:24 – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
            John 6:29, 40 – “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent…And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ ”
            John 12:36 – “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
            John 13:19–20 – “Now I tell you before it comes that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
            John 20:29–30 – “Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ ”
            John 20:30–31 – “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
            These are just a handful of instances from the Gospel of John where we are told that someone can be saved by believing in Jesus or by receiving Him. No mention is made of baptism in any of these situations nor is it ever given as a requirement in the other passages I mentioned in the previous post, and many, many more could be cited. So from your view, it’s really too bad that these people were never told how they could be saved since they weren’t told that they had to be baptized. If you want to add baptism to every one of these situations, then you are reading something into the text that isn’t there.
            Your allusion to James 2:19 is irrelevant. James says that his readers do well to believe that there is one God, and then he adds that even the demons believe that and tremble. He specifically mentioned what they believe in this verse — that there is one God. He doesn’t say that demons believe that Jesus died on the Cross for their sins, because He didn’t die for them, nor did He become an angel to save the angels (Hebrews 2:16). James is talking about the fact that genuine faith needs to be demonstrated by a person’s works. This is no different than what I have been saying all along.
            The fact of the matter is that baptism is extremely important. It was commanded by Jesus (Matthew 28:18–20), it was practiced by the disciples throughout the book of Acts, and it should be followed by every believer. But it does not save anyone.

        • Yes it does. And Hebrews 12:23 mentions the “church of the firstborn” and Acts 20:28 and 1 Corinthians 1:2 mention the “church of God,” as do many other verses (1 Corinthians 10:32; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5). I’m not really sure what your point is.

  20. Liked this post. I think one of my pastors when I was at Sand Run came from a Church of Christ background, too, although my own was mostly GARBC(?). I think your position as someone who has been involved with the Church of Christ makes your insight valuable. Of course, not having ever watched Duck Dynasty, there’s not much else I can say, other than that I appreciate the willingness to give people the benefit of the doubt rather than jumping to conclusions based on their affiliations broad groups.

  21. Hey, Tim, got broken links for your [1] and [2] footnotes there. I’ll post something less nitpicky when I’ve gotten a chance to finish the article at home. 😛

    • Joel, does that look any better? I wasn’t sure if there was an easy way to do footnotes in WordPress, so I wasn’t really trying to create links there. Those old ones just copied over from the Word document that I had originally typed this in. But I think I found a way to do it although the jump from the text to the note doesn’t take you to the exact spot unless it’s a short footnote (and mine typically aren’t short). But I like the hover feature. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

      • The Church of Christ and the Christian church and Disciples of Christ & denominations are NOT anywhere near the same nor believe, teach, and practice the same things. You cannot read about any other church(es) in the New Teatament other than the Church of Christ. The ONE that Jesus died for. Any other is denomination established by men. You need to get your facts straight! The Robertson’s in no way represent the Church of Christ. Where they attend church, just because it has Church of Christ on the sign, does not mean that they are teaching and obeying the commands of God. If anything they are an insult to the church for which Jesus died. They are just like the ones that Jesus talks about when He says, “why call ye Lord,Lord and do not the things which I say” (Lk. 6:46). And yes they are preaching a false gospel!

        • Jonathan,
          The groups today known as Church of Christ, Church of Christ non-instrumental, Christian Church, and Disciples of Christ all came out of the Restoration Movement that began in the early 1800s. This was launched by Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone. Their goal was to “restore” the New Testament church. In the nearly 200 years since that movement began, it has split a few times into what we see today. In the early 1900s, the Disciples of Christ group followed the liberal tendencies of that era and became their own group. The Church of Christ non-instrumental tends to be more on the legalistic side (although this statement is probably too much of a blanket statement), and the Christian Church and Church of Christ (instrumental) groups are very similar. I’m pretty sure I have my facts straight on this. I just didn’t go into much detail on it in the footnote that mentioned it.
          It’s true that there is one church, and it is made up of genuine believers in Jesus Christ. But it isn’t true that one must call themselves the Church of Christ in order to be part of the true church. What about the “church of the firstborn” mentioned in Hebrews 12:23 or the “church of God” mentioned in Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 1:2, and many other places? One must place their faith in Christ alone for salvation to be part of the true church.
          It’s true that putting “Church of Christ” on the sign does not guarantee that one is part of that “denomination” (I know, Restoration Movement churches don’t like that label), and it may also be true that the Robertsons don’t follow the traditional doctrine of that movement. I’m sure they would also admit that they aren’t perfect in following God’s commands, as would I, since I know I fall short on a regular basis. I wouldn’t say that they are an insult to the church for which Jesus died unless I heard from their own lips that they have not placed faith in Christ or were involved in ongoing gross immorality and/or heresy (and not even repentant about it).
          Rather than accusing them of preaching a false gospel (with an exclamation point to boot), you need to explain what have they said about the gospel that is false. Rather than saying that they are an insult to Christ’s church, you need to explain why, instead of making what sound like baseless accusations.
          I’d like to know what errors they are teaching so that I can revise my post (if necessary).

          • Tim,

            Excellent article and well done with your replies. I always enjoy reading your articles and replies. I don’t want to point fingers at any of the people who may chose to comment on any blog on theological or spiritual issues, but it seems to me that many who disagree without adding substance, especially arguements backed by scripture, perhaps have some growing to do. I know I have disagreed with people on issues such as this and we have some great, in-depth conversation. At the end, we still may disagree, but the conversation is civil and enjoyed overall, though it may get passionate on one part or another.

            In one instance a comment made before getting into a discussion on which the parties (including me) understood that we would probably disagree was, “I’m curious to see if you’ll take your ball and go home.” Well, I didn’t go home and at the end of the conversation, we still disagreed.

            I appreciate that you pointed out that interpretation matters. I’ve had to revise my understanding of scripture over the years as I study more and deeper in God’s word. I will thank you for what you taught me years ago. “Remain teachable.” I agree and try to, but that teaching will have to be firmly backed up by scripture. I think I started out too much like a Berean after God finally got my attention.

            Again, excellent article. I’m looking forward to more. God bless you!

          • Thanks Joe. I agree with your assessment of many of the folks (not all) who choose to comment without adding any substance. Far too often in Christian circles, “debate” involves “You’re wrong, because I’m right” without any support. Or they may add one or two verses without providing context while refusing to address any of the responses. Those are the people who usually “take their ball and go home” while accusing you of doing it.
            On this particular subject, there are certainly a handful of verses that seem to support the notion that one must be baptized, but in light of their actual grammar, immediate context, and the larger context of Scripture, we see that these verses do not mean that. I mentioned to one of the other folks leaving comments that I would probably do a blog post (maybe two) covering those verses. Now if I could only find the time… God bless!

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