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The International Church of Christ, as I understand, teach the idea of "Disciples Baptism", which is distinct from both "Believer's Baptism" and "Infant Baptism". It teaches that people who are just believers can not be baptized, but only believers who have attained to a certain level of discipleship where they can be considered disciples.

What, is the argument against this specific teaching?

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There are two main arguments against it.

  1. One argument is that it is fairly arbitrary to decide how far advanced in discipleship someone needs to be in order to be baptized. Whatever level you set, there will be some who never attain that level of discipleship - however normal Christian doctrine would say that those people are nonetheless true Christians and members of the church. Likewise some may attain that level of discipleship and then fall from it.
  2. The main argument however is that the Bible is full of examples of people who were baptized as soon as they were converted. Acts 2, Philip and the Ethiopian in Act 8, and a whole host more.
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There are two main arguments against it. First, the ICOC leadership explained to me that Matt. 28:19–20 establishes that one must be a “disciple” before one is baptized on the following basis. Matt: 28:19 in the NIV reads, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father . . .” Note the italicized “them.” It is said that the “them” refers to “disciples” in the phrase “make disciples,” and therefore one must be a “disciple” before one is baptized and becomes a Christian. However such an interpretation is based on entirely on one English translation and with a total ignorance of the Greek behind English translations.

Notice the Young’s literal translations doesn’t say go “make disciples,” but go “disciple all the nations.” If we are to “go and disciple all the nations, and baptize them,” who is the “them” referring to? Is it disciples? “Them” is a pronoun and its antecedent must be another pronoun or noun. It can’t be a verb. There is one Greek word to connote the verbal idea of discipling, which NIV translators have expressed as “making disciples.” So here “disciples” is part of the action of disciple making expressed as an imperative, so the ‘them’ cannot grammatically refer to “disciples.” Interestingly, the “them” is a masculine pronoun and “nations” is a noun in the neuter, so “nations” is not the antecedent because in Greek a pronoun will agree in grammatical sex with its antecedent. You don’t baptize nations, but people who comprise a nation. So the pronoun is silent but understood. Greeks often abbreviate their thought, as writing was expensive and time consuming. The implied sense is, “make disciples of (the people) of all nations, baptizing them (the people of the nations).” That is, people of nations become disciples by being baptized and being taught all the commands to be obeyed. This verse is describing how a disciple is made, and it occurs by a two-step process of (1) being baptized and (2) being taught to observe all God’s commands.

Secondly, the ICOC's requirement that one becomes a "disciple" before one is baptized is to force people to live righteously by their own strength before they receive the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, and therefore such actions of proving one is a disciple before baptism amounts to having to obtain holiness through one's own works rather than depending on the Spirit. Notice that the Great Commission reads that it is AFTER baptism that people are to be taught how to observe or obey the commands, not before, as the ICOC teaches.

The ICOC's doctrine of 'baptizing disciples" is incompatible with the "sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit" (2 Thes. 2:13). The Spirit gives us power over sin by giving us another way to feed ourselves rather than through the flesh. In baptism, we don't put to death our flesh, but our "old self" (Rom. 6:6) that used to rely on the flesh to satisfy ourselves. Because we have another way to feed ourselves, and one that will actually meet our deepest needs, we are able to deny the flesh daily and live off the Spirit. Thus, this crucifying the "old self" is not a one-time event that occurs at baptism, but is to be ongoing in a person's Christian walk.

Those who do not have the Spirit have no other way to feed themselves and so their denial produces a starvation in which they eventually revert back to an enslavement in sin or swap sinful addictions. People can choose not to avail themselves of living by the Spirit after receiving it in baptism, and in doing so will not live any different from those who are unbaptized. I believe this has largely occurred because many in the church walk around in ignorance about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and sanctification. Historically, far more attention has been given to discussions of God the Father and the Son, and very little on the work of the Holy Spirit in regard to sanctification.

Once people have the Spirit it baptism, which itself is an action of trust, their actions of holiness after baptism are not works, but actions of trust--ones that are dependent upon and made possible by the Holy Spirit who came to indwell people from that point forward. If a church insists on baptism, but has no teaching about the Holy Spirit in regard to sanctification, then structures to control sin must be achieved through human regulations imposed by church leaders on members through tactics of guilt, peer pressure, or psychological manipulation, and/or through members’ own self-imposition of will power. This is where much of the church abuse in the ICOC has historically arisen.

  • Welcome to the site. Great post. – fredsbend Jun 8 '15 at 3:07
  • Yes, a good post but it seems to imply that the Holy Spirit comes only after baptism. Acts 10:47 shows that the Holy Spirit can come to an individual PRIOR to baptism. – FernOfTheAndes Aug 30 '15 at 1:34
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For argument's sake, look at how Jesus chastised the Pharisees who paraded their religion around and made a relationship with God the exclusive possession of themselves, the self-proclaimed 'devout'. The Bible is pretty clear on the 'sainthood' of all believers- you can't get much higher than a saint.

Religious leaders used their social position to elevate themselves as somehow closer to the Father than everyone else. These were people who claimed holiness, because they spent so much time studying and practicing the so-called disciplines of the faith. Of course, they could afford to do this by living off the contributions of those who had to spend the majority of their time working in order to eat (the same people the devout placed themselves above).

This was offensive to Jesus Christ, who did not appear as one of their ilk but as the son of a carpenter. Baptism was originally a public form of joining/acceptance into a community of people who were different than that. There were no rules or prerequisites. You could be a total stranger and you were welcomed. Jesus was welcoming. Baptism should rightfully be an act of welcoming. When it gets forbidden on certain grounds, delayed pending evaluations by elders, or reserved for special types of Christians, its generally offensive to the tenets of the Way. However, it's widely used as a method of exclusion in religious institutions, to make sure the "wrong types" of people aren't getting in.

This isn't a small point. Jesus was basically put to death because of he was threatening this way of thinking. Early Anabaptists, Manz, Blaurock, and the long list those who followed were executed specifically for baptizing people, thus challenging the power structures of their day who were using the issue to maintain authority and to 'administer' religion to people through false authority. Of course, it didn't take that long for their movements turn around and start doing the same thing.

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It took me a while to find but, as far defining Disciples Baptism (since you did not supply):
Only a disciple of Christ can be baptized into Christ.
OLD ICOC - http://disciplestoday.org/
NEW ICOC - http://www.usd21.org/

Not much can be saved against a doctrine. It pretty much stands by itself and respected.
Based on these readings: The Holy Spirit dwells in human to save Romans 8:9.
The catch is HUMAN CONSCIENCE: 1 Peter 3:21
Basically saying that I don't know if he/she is saved - only his/her conscience and God.
That is where preachers come in - to state a doctrine.

I think that is why is site does not answer who is saved or what is sin or give Pastoral Advise --- because if anybody has to scream at my conscience it has to be a Pastor of Christ.

thanks for reading

  • This would be much better as a comment. It could be the start of a good answer if you stated and argued against some of their major points, preferably with references to the bible or church leaders who argue against their position. – disciple Oct 30 '16 at 17:34
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Great question. Here is a snippet from my 2006 essay found on REVEAL.org entitled, "From Ignorance to Heresy: A Modern-day Movement of Man." In section two, I have described their historical departure from orthodox Christianity in a section, "Countdown to Heresy." You might find it helpful. Keep in mind that "disciple's baptism" ALSO includes the prerequisite, even today's ICOC, that the seeker agrees to being 1:1 discipled or salvation is withheld. BOTH these teachings violate the gospel along the lines of Galatians, Chapter One.

Boston Chooses “works model” over “grace model” - it's important to note that prior to 1986 these Crossroad's trained leaders lined up with the mainstream COC's 5-finger plan of salvation that had no add-ons or prerequisites. McKean and Gordon Fergus, Elder, said that God had "revealed" to them that "disciple's baptism" was an old truth, rediscovered...The comments already posted on problematic NIV and word order are excellent! Some time before 1988, the poisoned pill had taken affect, they added to the gospel and chose a 6-finger plan, and a host of "reconstructions" swept the US churches making most folks "lost" until rebaptized and saved. That gave them a great deal of power.

So what’s the point in all this? These leaders had a fundamental change in their basic and long held beliefs. All of these men believed in the plan of salvation as applied in the book of Acts as summarized below: 1. Hear the message—Romans 10:17, Acts 11:14 2. Believe—John 3:16, Acts 16:31 3. Repent—Luke 13:3, Acts 3:19 4. Confess Jesus as Lord—Romans 10:9, I Timothy 6:12 5. Be immersed—Acts 2:38, I Peter 3:21 (17)

Now, however, they had adopted a human-effort gospel that looked something like this: 1. Hear the message 2. Believe 3. Disciple’s Repentance—Seekers had to demonstrate and prove “advanced level” changes in irrelevant and unrelated areas of their lives in order to be baptized. The group used three individual studies to weigh down newcomers-Repentance, Lordship, and Counting the Cost. Failure to perform and appear broken before leadership in any area meant you had a “bad heart” and were unworthy of God’s grace. The group’s idea of repentance was that one must perform the deeds of an already saved Christian before they had even become one, and without the power of the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 3:18). Even Paul himself did not meet these requirements nor did any of the other conversions in the book of Acts. Any lack of perfection or abandonment of sin only proved you weren’t ready to be baptized and therefore ready to be saved.

In fact, every time God’s plan of salvation is presented, the seeker is told “that they should repent and turn to God,” performing deeds appropriate to repentance (Acts 26:19-20). Thus, turning to the Lord follows repentance and occurs at baptism (Acts 2:38). By looking further into Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:17-22, we see that he was not expected to give a works demonstration of repentance before being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul did make a decision to change but his repentance was one that was appropriate in that it initially began at baptism. The deeds came afterward.

An Old Testament illustration of trying to transform oneself outside God’s plan can be seen in the changes in Moses’ face when the Lord descended in a cloud and spoke to him in the tabernacle. In Jay Wilson’s book Cleansing the Inside of the Cup, he says:

The question here is, “How much work could Moses do to make his face shine?” The answer, of course, is that Moses could never do enough work to change his face; it took an act of divine power to transform his countenance. In the same way, there is no amount of work we in our age can do to make our “spiritual faces” shine; it takes an act of divine power to transform our spiritual countenances.

Those changes and attempted changes which a person makes outside the transformation connected with beholding the Lord are the “dead works” of the Law (Heb. 6:1). Those changes are humanly possible changes which effect the external performance of the individual. But the transformation which God recognizes is that which the Holy Spirit accomplishes when the Christian beholds the glory of the Lord.

In the end, the movement’s practice of “disciple’s repentance” would simply be works salvation. It was a laundry list of uninspired obligations one had to do in order to produce cheap, visible zeal, and the outward appearance of righteousness. All who passed through these gates would become guilt-motivated, works-oriented Christians, without realizing it until later, sometimes much later.

This teaching is clearly a perversion of the gospel. The elders, evangelists, and interns used this deception, directly or indirectly, as many as several times in a day when doing individual bible studies with newcomers, to show that only their church was repenting correctly. They also preached it from the pulpit in an arrogant and exclusive manner as if to prove they were better than everyone else. This was a very damaging and abusive teaching used by the false teachers to gain more converts. It also met their need, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate and control people for personal emotional gain in the name of discipling.

  1. Confess

  2. Disciple’s Baptism (immersion)—Seekers had to demonstrate and prove “advanced level” changes in irrelevant and unrelated areas of their lives in order to be baptized. The group used at least four individual studies to weigh down newcomers with their confusing definition of “disciple”—Discipleship, Repentance, Lordship, and Counting the Cost. Failure to perform and appear broken before leadership in any one area often meant you had a “bad heart” and were unworthy of God’s grace. Converts were expected to perform the deeds of an already saved Christian before they had even become one, and without the power of the Holy Spirit. This concept can’t be found anywhere in the bible. The ICC expected that a person was to act like a Christian before he/she received the Holy Spirit according to interpretations of Acts 2:38 and Matthew 28:18-20, which would be impossible!

Once again, this call to conversion limited baptism to those who would give a works demonstration of repentance and who would “walk as a disciple” before they could become disciples (based on Matthew 28:19. “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them …).

Which gospel sounds like good news to you? Either the group that taught the need to have faith, repent, confess and be baptized, the pre-1986 group, are false teachers or the add-on group of post-1986 are false teachers. Either way, one of the teachings was “another gospel.” Obviously, the Boston Movement/ICOC took the course of heresy.

There is no doubt as to the sincerity of this group, but I believe this gathering of false teachers, in their willful ignorance, did not realize they were teaching falsehood. After all, like the Judaizers, they weren’t wrong on all doctrinal points.

  • Welcome! Thanks for contributing. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. – Nathaniel Oct 30 '16 at 19:32
  • That's a lot of words. There is a term of art for how this answer is written: word salad. You have the kernel of a good answer here. In order to attract support, you need to reorganize this answer, and edit it, so that it flows smoothly from point to point. Organizational tip: first, take the parts that identify ICOC belief/doctrine. Secondly, address the arguments against (which is the question) and cite sources (links are nice, but notes at the end, authors & works, suffice). Unsourced / unsupported answers don't meet the standard. Please edit and improve it. – KorvinStarmast Oct 31 '16 at 15:11

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