Defining the Church of Christ

The Church of Christ members believe that water baptism is a requirement for their salvation, with their creed being the following: “Repent, believe, confess, and be baptized.”

We recognize the first three components of their creed because they are the basics of salvation: a) repent, b) believe, c) confess. However, we do not believe that water baptism is tied to one’s salvation. This is the part you want to focus on dismantling to get them saved. Another thing to note when leading them to salvation is that they do not believe in Jesus’ deity. 

Evidence 1

Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, 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.”

This verse is commonly used by the Church of Christ and all sorts of religions claiming to be Christians to defend water baptism for salvation. Notice that this verse says that you have to get baptized for your sins to be forgiven, which proves the need for water baptism. However, what they fail to do is read the verse as it says.

“be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins”

Take notice of the word ‘for’ in this verse. Here, it does not necessarily mean to receive something, like the forgiveness of sins as the verse later mentions. In fact, the word ‘for’ can also mean because of. For instance, if you take painkillers for a headache, you take that painkiller not to receive the headache but because of the headache. Another example is that if you go to jail for stealing, you don’t go to jail to steal but because you were stealing. 

Now in terms of the remission of sins in this verse, you get baptized because your sins have already been forgiven, not that you need to get baptized for your sins to be forgiven. This is true of Christians. Because we are already saved (forgiven of our sins) that’s why we follow up by getting baptized.

Before we continue, it is important to know that Campbellites is another word for Church of Christ, given that Alexander Campbell is the founder of the Church of Christ. These words are used interchangeably from this point on.

Now, we have discussed the two meanings of the word ‘for.’ Because there can be two possible meanings, they will argue concerning this. It is true that either word can work but which word has more evidence? The evidence is in favor of ‘because of.’ This is also when you point out their biased interpretation of ‘for’ and that they have no biblical evidence for that specific meaning. They will most likely accuse you of the same thing, lack of biblical evidence. However, you do have biblical evidence for ‘because of’ when you compare Scripture with Scripture concerning the word ‘for”. Comparing Scripture with Scripture is very important when building up evidence. Because the Bible is our final authority for arguments and truth, we use it to determine what a verse means by comparing it to other verses.

Now, let’s compare the previous verse with the following verse to build up evidence for ‘because of.’

1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Notice that this verse states that Jesus’ blood washes all of our sins. Not some, all. Now, here’s a question for Campbellites. If Jesus Christ’s blood washed away all of our sins when we were saved, why is there leftover sin being washed away when the water baptism (which you claim is needed to wash away sins) takes place? There is a contradiction here because the verse clearly states that when you get saved, the blood of Jesus cleanses you of all sins. That said, there would be no leftover sin for water baptism to get rid of because Jesus took care of it with His blood.

Going back to Acts 2:38, we see that ‘because of’ makes more sense knowing that Jesus already took care of the sin part with His blood. So, because Jesus’ blood has gotten rid of our sins, we then get water baptized.

Evidence 2

Acts 22:16: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

This verse makes it seem as if water baptism is needed to wash away sins, and this is what the Church of Christ will use as a prooftext. They will argue that the Apostle Paul got water baptized for the washing of his sins. However, if you look at the verse closely, it shows a separation between “arise” and “be baptized,” notably by a comma. This means that they are two independent, separate ideas.


Get up.

“and be baptized”

Common sense here, it is what it says.

“, and wash away thy sins”

Notice that there is also a comma followed by an “and” as is with the ‘be baptized’ part. Following the same pattern of the words previously mentioned, the ‘be baptized’ part and the ‘wash away thy sins’ part are two separate ideas.

“, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Notice that this part of the verse does not have the word ‘and’ after the comma, meaning that it is a continuation of the previous statement, which is, ‘and wash away thy sins.’ This is basic English grammar, to know how an appositive comma works. Let’s give an example of this.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple…

In this statement, the second part of the phrase supports the idea of the previous noun, which is Steve Jobs. The comma between the noun and the supporting idea is known as an appositive comma because it makes them relevant to each other (one describes the other).

When we put this all together, we can conclude that one’s sins are washed away by calling on the name of the Lord and not by the separate idea of being baptized.

Like other cults, when you point these things out, they will accuse you of it being your interpretation. However, as we have already pointed out previously, it is just the basics of English grammar. To give a more convincing argument, let’s again use Scripture with Scripture.

*There are three rules to remember when supporting your interpretation, two of which have already been covered: Scripture with Scripture and reading the verse as it says. The third rule is to read the context of the verse, which will be covered later on. Following these rules is crucial when witnessing others, especially when they bring up passages of the Bible. 

Revelation 1:5: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,”

Here we see, once again, that it was Jesus’ blood that washed away our sins. Throughout the Bible, Jesus’ blood is always mentioned regarding the forgiveness/washing of sins. 

Evidence 3

John 3:3-5: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

We agree with this. A person has to be born again.

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

Campbellites, and others such as Catholics, Pentecostals, etc., use this verse to support water baptism as a way to be born again (saved). It’s not only the Holy Spirit, but you need the water baptism as well, is what they will argue.

The simple way to dismantle this argument is by pointing out the lack of the word ‘baptize’ anywhere in this verse. How do they know it is talking about water baptism when it just mentions water? Water does not automatically mean to baptize. Take Genesis 7, for instance. It does not make sense when you think that the whole lost world at the time all got baptized and went to heaven when it mentions the earth was covered by water. Ironically, Noah is the only one that missed out on his salvation. That is outright nonsensical.

You want to point out that just because a verse says water, it does not automatically mean baptism. For evidence, look at all of the verses in the Bible where it mentions water.

In order to get the correct interpretation of the one verse, we do not stop our analysis at that same verse. It is crucial to read the context of the passage surrounding it. This is how we get a more accurate interpretation of what the verse says, and in this case, what the word water means.

“born of water and of the Spirit,”

First birth, water, and second birth, Spirit.

Keep this in mind, now read verse 6.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh;

First birth.

“and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

Second birth.

What Jesus was trying to show in verse 5 is that the first birth, the water birth, is our natural flesh birth. Our second birth, born of the Spirit, is our spiritual birth (salvation). 

When we were born of the flesh, we were all born from water. You might recall that a pregnant mother’s water breaks. Now, how do you get born again by the Spirit? The answer to this is found in the context of Chapter 3, specifically verse 15.

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

This is what it means to be born again. Not enough proof? Go to verse 18.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

In the entirety of Jesus’ speech, verses 3-21, there is no mention of baptism but rather belief in Him for being born again. Thus context, as it was in this case, is important when building up evidence for a specific interpretation.

Evidence 4

The following verse is one of their strongest verses used to prove water baptism for salvation.

1 Peter 3:20: “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water”

Basically, Noah and his family were saved by water, which is baptism given verse 21.

“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:”

This verse shows that when a person is saved by water, it refers to water baptism. We dismantle this interpretation using Scripture with Scripture. Notice that in verse 20, it says ‘saved by water.’ Let’s compare similar verses that say ‘saved by’. 

One thing to keep in mind is whether or not a person has to be physically submerged in water. If you were to search the words ‘saved by’ in your Bible and see how many instances one physically has to touch or be immersed under an element (in this case water), the answer would be not that many.

Now, let’s look at a case in which a person is saved by another element, namely fire.

1 Corinthians 3:15: “If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

“If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss:”

It’s a person’s work that is burned.

“but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

When the person in this verse is saved by fire, it does not mean that he had to be burned in the fire, but rather that he was saved out of the fire, saved from burning. Such is the interpretation of 1 Peter 3.

This interpretation makes sense with how the story of Noah goes: he and his family were saved out of the flood (water) while the rest of the world was drowned out in the water. The meaning of the English phrase ‘saved by’ is made clearer in 1 Corinthians 3 when the man is saved out of the fire. Thus, Scripture with Scripture shows us the correct interpretation of 1 Peter 3: Noah and his family were saved from the water.

Let’s move on to dismantling verse 21.

“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:”

Notice the parentheses in this verse describe what baptism saves us from.

“(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,)”

The purpose of baptism is not to put away the filthiness of the flesh, sin, but rather so that those who partake in it have a good conscience toward God. When the Bible talks about the filth of the flesh, it means sin. We see this in 2 Corinthians 7.

2 Corinthians 7:1: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

We have to cleanse ourselves of sin so we can perfect ourselves in holiness with God.

The funny thing about 1 Peter 3:20-21 is that it is not only the second strongest prooftext Campbellites have concerning water baptism for salvation, but is the same prooftext we Bible Believers use to debunk it.

Concerning water baptism, why do we need it to have a good conscience with God? Because God commands us to get water baptized.

Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

The last commandment Jesus gave to the disciples was to get baptized. As it is a commandment from God, a saved Christian should feel guilty if they have not yet been baptized.

Evidence 5

This is the strongest verse the Church of Christ has for proof of water baptism for salvation.

Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

This verse poses a problem if we want to say that belief only is required for salvation, and not belief along with water baptism as the verse seems to indicate. To dismantle this argument, we must remember to use the three rules previously mentioned: Scripture with Scripture, context, and reading the verse as it says. With these rules in mind, let us read the verse again.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;

Notice the word ‘and.’ If you look up the definition for this word in an English dictionary, you will notice that it means ‘to be consequently expected.’ Applying it to the aforementioned verse, because one believed first, it is now consequently expected that one should get baptized. This is not a reinterpretation of the verse but rather going word for word. For further proof that water baptism is a consequence of believing, first look up other instances in the Bible when people believed in Jesus Christ. You will notice that they immediately or consequently had to do something, which was water baptism.

Let us now revisit the whole verse with the correct interpretation in mind.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Notice that in the second part of the verse, skipping water baptism is not mentioned in regards to being damned, but not believing is. This further proves that it is only by believing in Christ that a person is saved. Water baptism comes as a consequence or expectation after one is saved. Thus, we can conclude that the entire main idea of the verse is about believing, not water baptism, because believing is mentioned more than once. This happens in everyday speech as well, so compare Mark 16:16 to another real world example such as buying a ticket and (consequently) getting on the plane. You will notice that the ticket holds more importance than getting on the plane because you can only get on the plane due to having the ticket.

Now, let us revisit the same verse, paying specific attention to its context.

Verse 11

And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

These individuals had a problem with believing.

Verse 13

And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

They, too, had a problem with believing.

Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

Believing is mentioned twice here.

Verse 17

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

Again. Believing.

The main idea of Mark 16 has been believing because it has been mentioned many times throughout the passage. Water baptism was only mentioned briefly because it was consequently expected after one believes.

Another way to dismantle this argument is to look at the author’s writing style. If you know how an author writes, then you are more likely to understand what is being conveyed in their works. If you look at the word ‘and,’ Mark uses it as something that is consequently expected and this particular idea does not bear any necessity to the rest of the passage. To prove this, look at verses 1 through 20 and notice how each of the verses begins. The verses start with ‘and.’ Mark also uses ‘and’ a lot in the previous chapter. So we can establish that Mark’s writing style is to use the word ‘and’ often.

We see specific examples of phrases beginning with ‘and’ and not bearing necessity (or being expected) in the following verses:

Verse 2

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

“And very early in the morning” is not necessary but is obviously expected because the verse later mentions that it takes place “at the rising of the sun.”

Verse 4

And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

“And when they looked”, too, is obviously expected because “they saw” is mentioned.

Verse 7

But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

“and Peter” is also obviously expected because ” tell his disciples” is mentioned. Peter is a disciple as well.

Verse 8

And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

“and fled from the sepulchre” is obviously expected because “And they went out quickly” is mentioned.

Verse 10

And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

“and wept” is obviously expected and bears not necesity to the rest of the sentence because “as they mourned” is mentioned.

Finally, we will cover one last argument to dismantle water baptism for salvation. Look at Mark’s other writing pattern and compare it to the writing patterns of other Christian authors. The idea in Mark’s writing pattern in chapter 16 is either you believe in Jesus Christ for salvation or you don’t believe and are consequently damned. The same can be said for other Christian authors. Thus there is no reason for Mark to mention any other condition other than simply believing in Christ for a person’s salvation. Insisting that water baptism is needed for salvation contradicts the whole idea of the gospel that Christian authors, including Mark, are trying to convey: Jesus only. The following verses convey belief in Jesus for salvation:

John 3:18: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Like Mark 16, you either believe and get saved or don’t believe and are damned.

John 3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Again, belief on Jesus.

1 John 5:10: “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”

1 John 5:12: “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Same idea in both these verses: belief=saved, non-belief=damnation.

This shows you that the overriding idea in any Christian author’s writings is to believe in Jesus, which is what makes you saved. Don’t believe, and you are damned. Nothing else is required, not water baptism nor any other work, only belief in Jesus Christ.