by Neal Pollard
(This article was written a few days ago)
Today, one of the most famous preachers of modern times died just short of his 100th birthday. Not only did he achieve longevity, his name was almost synonymous with American religion in the 20th Century. He reached hundreds of millions of people through live crusades, radio, and television. He was regularly listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.” His website claimed that he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history (info via FoxNews.com). His influence on society is unmistakeable.
However, this much loved and now much lamented man used the weight of his name and influence to oppose something which Scripture seems very clearly to teach. In the answer section of his website, he addresses the question, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” While answering that he believed it to be important and that he had done it himself, he also said, “If baptism were a requirement for salvation, we would certainly say that.” His answer makes clear that one becomes a saved convert before baptism, the thief on the cross being used as proof of that claim. Many of those who left comments under his answer shows how deeply influential and popular his teaching on this was.
I believe in the vitality of the saying, “It’s never a matter of ‘who’s right,’ but ‘what’s right.’” Something is never right because I say it, some other preacher, or even the most famous preacher of the 20th Century says it. Something is right because Jesus and His apostles and prophets said it. Here is what they said:
• He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16 (Jesus)
• “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” Acts 2:38 (Peter)
• And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 22:16 (Ananias)
• Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4 (Paul)
• For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Ephesians 3:26-27 (Paul)
• The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 1 Peter 3:21 (Peter)
I feel the loss of this renowned preacher is sad and tragic. I appreciate his vast influence and the way he tried to use that for good in so many regards. Yet, if the Bereans found it necessary to compare the great apostle Paul’s preaching and teaching with Scripture, any of us who preach and teach today should want people to do the same. That’s the only way we will be able to determine what’s right!