How does a person become a member of the church? The answer is, just like those converts on the day of Pentecost got into - were added - to the Jerusalem church, by being baptized, by being immersed in WATER. A church service is in progress today, and a person walks forward at the close, when the invitation is given, and publicly confesses Christ as Savior. Is he a member of that church? No. Suppose now that he is immersed at the evening service. Is he now a member? Certainly he is. At the pastor's request he stands down front at the close of the service, and the church members go forward and extend to him the hand of church fellowship.
But the Universal Churchite, including some Baptists, claim that a person doesn't become a member of the church in this way. They claim that one becomes a member of the Church by "being baptized into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit." This is some kind of a mystical (really "mythical") baptism, into a mystical (really "mythical") Body. Really, this is conglomerate nonsense! I must confess to a feeling of theological nausea every time I heard some one rattle off that expression about a person being "baptized into the Body of Christ." What sort of an experience is that? Nobody can see it happen. No body attempts to explain what sort of feeling accompanies this mythical experience. Nobody can show anything to prove that it takes place. Where do people get that stuff? The answer is, they in their dire need of something to back up a wicked theory, go to I Corinthians 12:13. Without regard to the context, and throwing aside all right standards of theological interpretation, they latch onto that passage - that lone, greatly beloved passage, and they make it to mean something that it was never intended to mean.
Let us go a bit into detail, and note some things that go against such an interpretation as I have just indicated.
It is always dangerous to build a big theory on one passage of Scripture, especially if it does not harmonize with the general teachings of the Scriptures on the same subject. No where else do we find any intimation that one gets into the church by some strange mystical (mythical!) Spirit baptism. If that theory is true, then there are millions of baptisms of the Holy Spirit. But the Scriptures restrict the baptism of the Holy Spirit to a very few instances. In fact, I can recall only three.
(1) The Holy Spirit baptized the disciples on Pentecost to empower them, and to give supernatural signs such as would cause people to turn to Christ.
(2) When the gospel spread to Gentiles, there was need of proof that Gentiles could be saved, so there we have a second instance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, such that it became unmistakably plain that Gentiles could be saved on the same terms as the Jews. Thus, in Acts 10:44 we read, "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all of them that heard the word." Verse 46 says, "They heard them speak with TONGUES, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which HAVE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST AS WELL AS WE?"
(3) We have the instance of some men at Ephesus who had been very imperfectly instructed. They had been baptized "unto Johns baptism" which related to the Messiah to come, but evidently they didn't know that the Savior had appeared. Paul enlightened them, and evidently they received the Christ about whom he told them, for we read, (Acts 19:5), "When they heard this they were baptized in the name of Jesus." They needed some supernatural evidence as they came out of their befuddlement and that supernatural evidence was given them, for we further read, "And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, AND THEY SPAKE WITH TONGUES AND PROPHESIED."
Note that we have three instances of Holy Spirit baptism. In EACH CASE IT WAS UPON GROUPS - never upon one individual. No mention is made that these persons had been baptized into the Body of Christ. In each instance of Holy Spirit baptism THE GIFT OF TONGUES WAS BESTOWED. Do those who claim Holy Spirit baptism into the Body of Christ, receive the gift of tongues? No. Why? The answer is, they simply do not receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, else they would show the manifestation of it that we read about in the New Testament.
Note also, the Scriptures never counsels believers to be baptized by the Holy Spirit. They are counseled to "be filled with the Spirit."
BUT WHAT OF I CORINTHIANS 12:13?
Remember as you read this passage that originally there were no chapter divisions. These are entirely man-made. Look back into the context and you will see that Paul has been writing to the Corinthians about their church observance of the Lord's Supper. He is plainly speaking about the local church. In chapter 11:18 he says, "When ye come together in the church." They couldn't come together in an invisible church. Paul comes right on down to the last verse of chapter 11 speaking of the local church. Indisputably this is true. Now why should he without any warning whatsoever, begin to write about some sort of a Universal Invisible Church? Of course he doesn't! He continues to write about the church - the assembly to which they belonged, but he changes the subject and begins to write about God's bestowal of spiritual gifts. These gifts relate to those members of the local church. In 12:11 he says, "But all these worketh that one and selfsame Spirit, dividing to EVERY MAN severally as he will." He is not writing about invisible members of an invisible church, but ordinary visible men. Then he makes a comparison between the visible human body and the visible local church. He shows that various organs of the body have different functions, and that one organ should not look down upon another more lowly organ just because that organ is adapted to a less important task. "The eye," he says, "cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee." All of the various organs are necessary to the proper functioning of the human body. Then he teaches that the church like the human body needs persons with the various gifts that God has bestowed upon them, such that there should be no jealousy - no looking down upon those adapted to the more lowly tasks. Throughout the entire chapter Paul is writing to local church members about the gifts that God bestows and the use of those gifts. He shows that not all members can enjoy the highest places. In verse 29 he says, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? ... But covet earnestly the best gifts ..."
Need I remind you that no one could use the gift of a teacher in the Universal Invisible Church. No, these are gifts that could only be used in a local visible church. The teachings of the entire chapter are applicable to a local church and that church alone. WHY, THEN SHOULD VERSE 13 SIGNIFY SOME KIND OF A CHURCH THAT PAUL HAS NOT BEEN WRITING ABOUT, AND TO WHOM HIS ILLUSTRATION HERE COULD NOT APPLY? But, if there is any question about Paul meaning some other kind of church than the local assembly in verse 13, that question can be easily resolved by any fair minded person. Suppose that Paul could be called before us such that we are enabled to ask him the question, "Paul what did you mean by your use of the word church in I Corinthians 12:13? Did you mean the Universal Invisible Church, composed of all believers, or were you speaking to the local church at Corinth?" If Paul should then reply and say that he meant the church at Corinth would that be sufficient to settle the questions? Would you throw away your Universal theory?
PAUL HAS ANSWERED THAT QUESTION! HE HAS SAID THAT HE WAS SPEAKING TO THE CHURCH AT CORINTH! "Where you say. The answer is in verse 27. Paul, speaking to that Corinthian church, says, "NOW YE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, AND MEMBERS IN PARTICULAR."
Does that settle the question for you? It should.
I must make a confession here. For several years I babbled that stuff about the Church being formed by people being baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. This babble was based on verse 13, but I had never carefully read or studied the context. Then one day I read the rest of the chapter, and when my eyes lit upon verse 27 and the words. "Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular," my eye balls must have nearly fallen out. I realized that I had been teaching something that was simply not in the Bible, and that I could have known better by reading just a few more verses. But I can say one thing: I threw that Universal theory on the junk heap! I hope that some of you who read this will do the same.
Now let us look a little more closely at verse 13. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." What kind of baptism is Paul writing about here? In answering this I think we ought to consider something that Paul - this same Paul, wrote to the Ephesians. In Ephesians 4:4 he writes, "There is ONE BODY, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling: one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM."
"ONE BODY." He is referring to the church. The Universalite usually believes that there is the local church and beyond this the big Universal Church, but Paul says that there is only ONE BODY, so since there are not two, one should be thrown away. That one body is the local assembly - the kind that Paul wrote his epistles to, and to believe that there is another kind of body or church is to take issue with Paul.
Then in verse 5 Paul says, "ONE BAPTISM." What kind of baptism? Immersion in water, of course. That is the kind of baptism that characterized the New Testament church - the kind that Paul taught and practiced. Now did Paul teach one kind of baptism in Ephesians 4 and another kind in I Corinthians 12? Of course not. In I Corinthians 12:13 he is writing about plain old immersion in water, in the name of the Holy Spirit. This is bound to be true, if it is true that "there is ONE baptism" and only one for a church.