A classic example of the divide between the Texas Tradition and the Tennessee Tradition is the “rebaptism” issue. I reproduce a particular “for instance” here without comment. In my next post, I will offer a few observations. Of course, this is but one example of many exchanges which actually began in the 1883 Gospel Advocate when McGary began to push his rather novel understanding and then started the Firm Foundation in 1884 to promote them. So, this is some twenty-two years down the road and the difference was still a wide one.
“The Purpose of Baptism,” Firm Foundation 20.10 (7 May 1905) 4.
Question from J. Wesley Smith of Lynchburg, Tennessee: Bro. Lipscomb: Would I do wrong to be baptized again, since I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, by a Methodist. I did not know at the time that baptism was for the remission of sins, but I did it to obey God. Is it right to make a knowledge of baptism for remission of sins a test of fellowship.
David Lipscomb, editor of the Gospel Advocate: The leading design and purpose of God in dealing with man is to bring man and the world over which man rules into subjection to, and harmony with God. The highest and leading purpose and end of man should correspond to that of God in dealing with man, and be to submit to God as the Ruler of the universe. Only in this way can he secure permanent good to himself and the world. The purpose and desire to obey god is the highest and best pleasing to God of all the motives that lead his subjects to obey His laws. This purpose embraces and overshadows all other motives and ends and leads to an humble and trusting walk with God in all His ways, and to the enjoyment of all the blessings God has in store for those that love and serve Him. This desire to do the whole will of God, and so “fulfill all righteousness,” was the motive that led Jesus, the Christ, not only to be baptized, but this caused Him to leave heaven, come to earth and do and suffer all the will of God God to honor God and bless man.
The nearer we come to be moved by this motive that led Jesus in His word and mission, the better we please God in our service. There are different motives placed before man to lead him to serve God. The lowest is fear; the highest is love. “There is no fear in love; perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18. Fear, dread of torment, is a legitimate motive, but it is of the lowest order. It appeals to man in his fleshly state, before the spiritual man is cultivated and developed. But fear must lead to and be swallowed up in love. John warned the Jews to ‘flee the wrath to come.’ This was fear that ‘hathtorment’ dread of punishment. Jesus said: “If a man love Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode withhim.” John 14:23. When they abide with a man, he has no torment; love has cast out dread and torment.
Under Judaism they were slaves, moved by fear; under Christ we are children, to be moved by love. “The heir (or son), as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the Father” (Gal. 4:1, 2), which means, under Christ, fear is a needed motive while we are children, but it must grow into love. One moved by the desire to do the will of God is moved by love. One led to be baptized because he desires to do the will of God is moved by love, the higher motive. That is the motive that moved Jesus to be baptized. It is the motive that best pleases God. For a man to ignore and reject a baptism because he was led to it by love for God and a desire to obey Him and displace it by a lower or less motive, begins in the spirit and ends in the flesh. He repudiates the higher service for that less pleasing to God.
This man says when he was baptized he did not understand baptism was for the remission of sins, but he did understand it was a command of God, and he wished to obey Him. I presume, too, he understood that obedience to God was necessary to salvation. If he understood this, he understood about as much of the matter as he understands now. If he understands baptism is for remission of sins in any other sense than that it is a condition–to prove man’s faith and willingness to obey God, he understands it incorrectly. It is a step that brings him into that condition in which God pardons sin and accepts him who believes as a child of God. I doubt if many who insist the understanding it is for remission of sins is essential to its validity understand it right. True it is that God never prescribed such belief as a condition of pardon.
Any baptism to please man displeases God. A baptism or any service to please any church or any persons displeases God. A sectarian baptism is sinful. But a baptism to obey God is not sectarian baptism; it is the baptism of Christ.
Many of the rebaptisms are performed to please those who demand it as a condition of fellowship. In Texas a few months since I learned of a woman who had been baptized and desired fellowship with the disciples. Some objected to here because she had not been baptized among the disciples. She had been baptized to obey God. What kind of baptism would it be? I fear many of them are to satisfy those who demand it. A person ought to have a clear conscience that in all the service he renders he does it from faith in God and to do His will. When he does what God commands from this motive, he may rest secure in the mercy of God.
George W. Savage, editor of the Firm Foundation: The above is given in full from the Advocate, for the Firm Foundation has no inclination to misrepresent old Bro. Lipscomb, for whom Chrisians have the highest regard as a teacher of God’s holy word. But just how a teacher in Israel can so far misrepresent the teachings and commandments of God is a question not well understood. Bro. Lipscomb and Bro. Harding continually call attention to the fact that men should be baptized “to obey God”–just as though God had made this a specific design of baptism. Where in all the realm of David Lipscomb’s reading did he read that baptism is “to obey God?” Why does he reject the expressed scriptural design and call it a fleshly act and substitute in its place a phrase as a design that God nowhere mentions in connection with baptism? Why dodge the issue with the general term “to obey God?” When these breethren say men are to be baptized “to obey God,” they admit that faith in the design, some design, is necessary to the validity of the act. And if faithin the design is necessary, why not place the design there revealed in the Bible and settle the question at once? Men do everything to obey God. We meet on the first day of the week to break bread. In this act we obey God. We do it to obey Him; yet there is a another design coupled directly with, and equally as spiritual as the general term, and that is “to show His deahtill He comes again.” To fulfill this design, Christians work and strive because God has placed it as a design for the act. Does Bro. Lipscomb contend that Christians can acceptably partake of these emblems in the absence of this design? Does it mean simply to take bread and drink wine before the world in an empty form without every effort to keep before them the central truth of the gospel? We are commanded to “take heed unto ourselves and unto the doctrine; continue in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” This is to obey God, too, but God couples with it two specific designs. One is “to save thyself;” the other is to save those who hear us. In doing this to obey God, we do it to save ourselves and them that hear us, for this is what we must do to obey God. In baptism men act “to obey God;” but in acting “to obey God,” they are baptized “for the remission of sins,” for this is obedience to God. The man who is not baptized for the remission of sins does not obey God, for God has told him to “be baptized for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:38. How could he be baptzied “to obey God” and at the same time refuse to do what God says? If you say it is because he is not taught, then it follows that he is not a proper subject for baptism, for Jesus said: “They shall all be taught of God.” John 6:44, 45. “Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto Me.” It will not do to rest the excuse on the question of ignorance, and if the candidate is taught of God, not man, he understands the command to “be baptized for the remission of sins.” If he understands it and does not do it, he is not baptized “to obey God.” If he does not understand it and is baptized for some other purpose, he is not taught of God, and the theory of baptizing a man on the manufactured saying of “obeying God” falls by its own weight. Besides, there is not a sectarian baptism in Christendom but what says, it is “to obey God.”
Answering the question, “Is it right to make a knowledge of baptism for the remission of sins a test of fellowship,” Bro. Lipscomb said: “True it is that God never prescribed such a belief as a condition of pardon.” I now propose to put the two statements side by side and allow the man of faith to decide. The Holy Spirit says: “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.” Acts 2:38. Bro. Lipscomb says: “True it is that God never prescribed such belief as a condition of pardon.” These two statements are far apart and can not both be right. One is from the God who created me; the other is from Bro. Lipscomb, who is a good but uninspired man. Which is right? I ask you, which is right? If Bro. Lipscomb is right, then men need not be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved. If the Bible language is right, man must be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved, and Bro. Lipscomb, however great he may be, is wrong.
Bro. Lipscomb in the above makes baptism for the remission of sins a fleshly act, because it is not prompted by love to God, and baptism to obey God a spiritual act because it is prompted by love to God. How did Bro. Lipscomb learn that the man who is baptized for the remission of sins, just as God tells him to do, does not love God, and the man who is baptized to obey God because his sins are pardoned does love God. This first does what God says, and the second does what He does not say. Which is the test of love and loyalty to God? Certainly the one that loves God and does what He tells him to do. Jesus said: “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me.” Again: “If a man love Me, he will deep My words.” And again: “He that loveth Me not, keepeth not My sayings.” John 14. From this we decide that the man who has the commands and keepeth them is the man that loves Jesus. And the man who does not keep them does not love Him. The test of loyalty and love to God is keeping His commandments. This is what Bro. Lipscomb calls the lowest motive and a dealing in the flesh. Jesus says this man is the man that loves him. Which is right? They can not both be right, for they differ. The man that has the command to be baptized for the remission of sins and does it is the man that loves Jesus. The man that has the same command and does not do it, but does something else “to obey God,” is the man that does not love Jesus, taking Jesus for just what He says. Friends, how can Bro. Lipscomb be right in this? What difference can exist between being baptized to obey God and being baptized to do what He says (for the remisson of sins)? How is it that baptism for the remission of sins because the man does it to keep God’s commands is of the lower order, while baptism because of the remission of sins, rejecting the direct command of God, is of the higher order of faith? The trouble with the man who asked this question is that he was not taught of God. He says so himself. He says he did not know that baptism is for the remission of sins. Not knowing this, he was not taught of God, and had the wrong faith, if he had any. Jesus said: “They shall all be taught of God.” He says he was not taught of God, and therefore, could not in this untaught state come to Christ. His faith was wrong; his baptism was no better than his faith. How could his obedience be right and his faithwrong? It may be true that many are baptized to please the preacher, but this does not answer the question. The question is, must God’s word be ignored, and must all our preaching stand for naught because some people who have been baptized because their sins are forgiven, or for no design at all, are satisfied with their baptism? Let God be true, though every man a liar, and if the truth makes us liars and reads us out of fellowship withGod, we ought not to blame the truth, but turn from our hardened teaching and bow in implicit obedience to Almighty God.