Are there any biblically-baptized believers that you would be ashamed to call your brothers? How about the leaders of the Boston movement? Or those who worship in congregations of the Disciples of Christ or the Christian Church? [p. 121]The three groups he used to illustrate are groups that many in his primary audience would find it difficult to accept as brothers, at least at the time of his writing nearly ten years ago. Actually that is probably still true today, in many cases. But Smith subsequently admonished us to answer carefully, because:
Heb 2:11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.If Jesus is not ashamed to call someone His brother, who are we to stop short of that?
What it suggests is the possibility that--despite their misunderstanding of baptism's purpose--believers who are immersed in order to obey the command to be baptized might nevertheless be regarded in God's eyes as saved believers. If so, of course, they would not have been saved at the point of faith (as they, themselves, think) but only at the point of their baptism--an odd situation, to say the least.
Two compelling questions are raised by that rather bizarre possibility. First, must a person have a completely correct understanding of the doctrine of baptism in order for his adult, faith-prompted immersion in the name of Jesus to "count"? I know of no passage that gives us a useful answer... [p. 128]For the second question, Smith draws an analogy to marriage. If two people live together and are subsequently married, is the marriage invalidated by the incorrect sequence? And, if the two believed they were already married but went through the ceremony merely to formalize their assumed marriage, would that invalidate the marriage ceremony?
My great concern is that, in trying to correct any mistakes we may have made in this shadowy area, we don't begin promoting a clearly unbiblical view of baptism. It is one thing to give someone the benefit of the doubt in terms of fellowship; it is another thing to give that doubt doctrinal legitimacy. It is one thing to honor a fellow believer's incorrectly understood obedience; it is another thing altogether to think that God will honor us for our own quite well-informed disobedience. [p. 130]Smith emphatically states that we should continue to teach baptism for the forgiveness of sins. But he also suggests that we might need to extend "In Christ" fellowship to those who do not agree, but are nevertheless immersed into Jesus as believing and penitent adults.
Labels: Who Is My Brother