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 believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Jesus)
- “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Peter)
- “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Ananias)
- “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Paul)
- “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Paul)
- “ Corresponding to that (Noah and family brought safely through the water, 20, NP), baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (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!