Who Is Right—the Plymouth Brethren, the Baptists, the Campbellites, or the Pentecostalists?
THE TIMES OF THE SIGNS
First let us ask this question, “have you ever met a zealous, sectarian Christian who was like the noble Bereans of Acts 17:11 who were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were sot” There are very few unprejudiced Bible teachers, or Bible students, even among those who call themselves non-sectarian Christians. Perhaps all of us are agreed that more than ninety-five per cent of all Christians let their religious, denominational or spiritual leaders do most of their thinking for them. Because of this there are more than four hundred sects in Christendom. Let us ask this personal question, “have you followed the good example of the noble Bereans in reaching a decision as to what you believe and practice as a Christian?” Will you endeavor this one time to be a Berean as you read this message?
Our question is, “what about the signs of Mark 16?” Let us note every word in Mark 16: 14 to 18:
“AFTERWARD HE (CHRIST) 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.” “AND HE SAID UNTO THEM, GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE. HE THAT BELIEVETH AND IS BAPTIZED SHALL BE SAVED; BUT HE THAT BELIEVETH NOT SHALL BE DAMNED.” “AND THESE SIGNS SHALL FOLLOW THEM THAT BELIEVE; IN MY NAME SHALL THEY CAST OUT DEVILS; THEY SHALL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES; THEY SHALL TAKE UP SERPENTS: AND IF THEY DRINK ANY DEADLY THING, IT SHALL NOT HURT THEM; THEY SHALL LAY HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY SHALL RECOVER.”
Before we deal with these five verses in detail, let us note some words which the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to write to Timothy more than thirty years after the resurrected Christ gave to the Eleven the commission and program of Mark 16:14 to 18. “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.” I Timothy 1:11. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might skew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern do them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.” I Timothy 1:16. “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities (sicknesses).” I Timothy 5:23.
Note “the glorious gospel of the blessed God”; use wine for thine oft sicknesses.
Note Timothy’s faith and Paul’s gospel “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee .” “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God: Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace; which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” II Timothy 1:5 to 9: This message of Paul was quite different from the message of Mark 16.
“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to MY gospel: Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the Word of God is not bound.” II Timothy 2:8 and 9.
Then the Holy Spirit led Paul to thus instruct believers: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” II Timothy 2:15.
Note Paul’s last words to Timothy: “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” II Timothy 4:5.
Note the fact that Timothy was a Christian of unfeigned faith and that he was instructed to take medicine for his oft sicknesses. Any one who has read these two Epistles to Timothy has learned that Timothy was a faithful courageous uncompromising soldier of Jesus Christ. And any student of these Epistles will surely know that when Paul told Timothy to do the work of an evangelist, or preach the gospel, he did not tell Timothy to lay hands on the sick and they would recover, because faithful Timothy was told to take a physical remedy for his own sickness. Had Timothy endeavored to miraculously heal others, he would have been as inconsistent as was one of our well known Chicago “healing” preachers. While he was speaking over the radio telling Christians about physical healing in the atonement, his false teeth fell out. Moreover he was wearing glasses because of weak eyes. There was also a defect in his hearing. But none of these ailments seemed to convince him, or any of his devotees, of his inconsistency and his erroneous teaching. He continued to preach Mark 16:14 to 18 as God’s program for members of the Body of Christ, telling his listeners that the lack of faith in the atoning work of Christ kept them from being made physically whole no matter what physical afflictions had caused their suffering.
Think of the confusion and the controversy among Christians because of the lack of agreement concerning Mark 16:14 to 18.
Several nights ago I heard on the radio the voice of a preacher in Del Rio, Texas. I soon learned that he was a follower of Alexander Campbell. He would call himself a member of “the Christian Church,” or say that he belonged to “the Disciples of Christ.” When we speak of “Campbellites,” it is that we might be specific and distinguish between these “Christians” and the other Christians we have mentioned in our heading. This radio preacher was pleading and urging, with sincerity, pathos, and fervor, as a loyal “Campbellite,” that his radio listeners hurry to some preacher of his denomination and be immersed in water for the remission of sins before it was too late.
There is no doubt about it, that preacher was in earnest. Moreover, he was more consistent than another zealous preacher of his denomination who, for ten nights, was conducting a revival in his church. He preached every night that it was not possible for any one to be saved without belief and baptism. He quoted Mark 16:16, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” During the first five or six nights a number of men and women responded to his invitation. Then, on Sunday, after seven days of the evangelistic campaign, he announced that on the following Wednesday night all who had come forward in the meetings would be immersed. A friend of mine said to him, “brother, you are not consistent.” “If what you have been preaching is true, any one of these converts may die before Wednesday night and, according to what you have taught concerning water salvation or baptismal regeneration, that one would go to hell.” “Why don’t you practice what you preach?”
The Campbellites agree with the Plymouth Brethren, with most Pentecostalists and with the Premillennial Baptists, that the Christian Church began on the day of Pentecost. All of these groups believe and teach that the Church which began on the day of Pentecost is the one Body of Christ mentioned in Ephesians 4:4 and described in Ephesians 1:19 to 2:21. And they are generally agreed that the Lord gave no commission to the Apostle Paul that superseded the commission of Mark 16:14 to 18, and that in 1941, A.D., God’s servants are still working under Christ’s orders in Mark 16:15 to 18.
The Campbellites affirm that if this is true, then the salvation message for Jews and Gentiles alike, in the day of grace, is Acts 2:38 “. . . 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.” Note carefully the order. It does not read, repent, be saved and then be baptized with water after you receive the Holy Spirit.
Read carefully again Mark 16:16: “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Then compare with Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost: “repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. If the Campbellites thus prove, by Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38, that their salvation message is scriptural, can we prove that it is unscriptural? We shall proceed to prove that, if the Lord Jesus did not give to the Apostle Paul a commission which superseded Mark 16:14 to 18, that is, if this Mark 16 commission sets forth the program for evangelists who are members of Christ’s Body, the Campbellites are far more consistent than are the Plymouth Brethren or the Baptists. Also we will show that if this is true, then the only consistent group among the four we have mentioned, is the Pentecostal group; that even the Campbellites are not.
Before we present this proof, we ask one thought-provoking question. We note in I Corinthians 11:1, that Paul wrote, “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Now, do you know a preacher who is in good standing in any of the four groups who follows Paul in two of his statements in I Corinthians? Note the first statement: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than ye all.” I Corinthians 14:18. Then turn to I Corinthians 1:14 to 17: “I thank God that I baptized none of you but . . .” “For Christ sent me not to baptize.” No Campbellite would thank God for either experience. They do not speak with tongues, and they baptize every one they can get their hands on. Remember we are to follow Paul. What about it?
But now to the program of Mark 16:16 to 18, which the Lord Jesus gave to the Eleven, and we would emphasize “the Eleven.” Mark 16:14. Note the pillars who represented the Eleven. “And when James, Peter and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me (Paul) they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” Have you carefully studied Galatians 2:7 to 9 to note the difference between the ministry of the Twelve and Paul?
Here we learn that James, Peter and John represented the twelve apostles and that nearly twenty years after Christ spoke the words of Mark 16:15 to 18, Peter and his associates agreed to go to the Jews and leave with Paul the evangelization of the Gentiles. Note Galatians 2:8: “For He that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.” Here we learn that even before the agreement of Galatians 2:9 that the Lord had wrought mightily in Peter. To whom? To the circumcision. Not to the Gentiles, except to the household of Cornelius.
Why does the Holy Spirit mention Peter in Galatians 2:8 and not the other eleven? Peter was the chief representative of the Twelve. Note how he was also selected according to Acts 15:7. It is strange that the most prejudiced Christians do not like to read Galatians 2:7, and if they do, under protest, they will not believe the statement after they read it. You read it now, and believe it. Why is it that most Christians will not believe this truth? Why do they insist on changing “Of the Circumcision” to “To the Circumcision ?”
Every Bible teacher in any of the four groups mentioned would have to do some adjusting, and some confessing of their erroneous teaching, if they should begin to believe and teach the truth of Galatians 2:7. Note it very carefully. “But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me (Paul) as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.”
In this connection let us note Peter’s message of Acts 5:29 to 33 and his confession of Acts 10:28.
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand be a Prince and a Saviour, for TO GIVE REPENTANCE TO ISRAEL and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:30 and 31.
“Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”. Acts 10:28 Here we note a turning-point about seven years after the commission given in Mark 16.
What do we learn from these Scriptures? We learn that, for several years, perhaps seven, after Christ gave the “Mark 16:14 to 18” commission to the Eleven, it was not lawful for the Twelve to preach to the Gentiles. Also Peter preached that God had raised Christ from the dead to be a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission. To whom? To ISRAEL. The Lord was mighty in Peter to the apostleship of the Jews. Galatians 2:8. The Lord committed unto Peter the gospel of the circumcision.
Now, the question: “Does your denomination believe and teach this?” Yes or No? How, about you individually? Now a very pointed question: If you know that your denomination is not standing for Divine Truth as it is set forth in the Scriptures, rightly divided, will you continue laboring in that denomination and keep silent as to what you know to be Divine Truth? Just answer this to the Lord, not to me. Some preachers compromise for personal advantages. Read Galatians 1:10.
But now to Mark 16:15 to 18: “And he said unto them, go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe: in My Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
In the writings of the apostles, Paul. Peter and John, the Holy Spirit presents God’s saving message, the gospel by which the believing sinner is saved. And then he so instructs the believer that he may know that he is saved, that is, the Lord wants the believer to have the proof of his salvation. When the Lord Jesus wanted Israel to believe that He was their Messiah He came with SIGNS. Note John 5:36 and Acts 2:22: “ . . . The same works that I do bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent Me.” “. . . Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”
When the Lord wanted Israel to know that He had sent the Twelve, He performed miracles by the Twelve. Hebrews 2:4: “God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will.” The Lord also wanted Jews and Gentiles to believe that Paul was a special apostle, hence II Corinthians 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs and wonders, and mighty deeds.” We see that signs were God-given credentials to prove that the movement was Divine.
Thus we see signs accompanied or followed the apostolic claims.
In Mark 16:17 we read, “And these signs shall follow them that believe.” How were the people to be saved? “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
Note the order: 1. Believeth, 2. Is baptized, 3. Saved,
And then what? Signs! The Campbellites and Pentecostalists preach this message as it is. They do not wrest it as do the Baptists and the Plymouth Brethren, who preach, “he that believeth and is saved shall be baptized’.” Who gave them the right to put “saved” before “baptized”? They are compelled to reverse the order there to support their denominational teachings. It is sad, but true, that prejudices, or preconceived opinions, are such hindrances that it is next to impossible to persuade most Bible teachers to be sufficiently intelligent and honest to acknowledge that in following the saving message of Mark 16:15 and 16, the Campbellites and the Pentecostalists are right and the Baptists and Plymouth Brethren are wrong. This is true also concerning Acts 2:38, Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost. But what do the Plymouth Brethren, the Baptists and the Campbellites do with the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18? These signs here seem to be the proof of salvation.
Note the proof:
1. “they shall cast out devils;
2. “they shall speak with new tongues;
3. “they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;”
4. “they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.” Mark 16:17 and 18.
Recently a Bible teacher in England wrote, “if the individual today must prove that he is a believer and is saved, because he practices the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18, there is not one single Christian in this generation and there has not been one since the day that the last apostle died.” Whether or not we believe this statement we do know that the accepted Bible teachers among Campbellites, Baptists and Plymouth Brethren make no attempt to prove that they are genuine Christians by performing the miracles of Mark 16:17 and 18. But the Pentecostalists do. The Campbellites, Baptists and Plymouth Brethren say belief and water baptism are linked together by the Holy Spirit in Mark 16:16 and they say, “what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” The Pentecostalists say “Amen, but you are inconsistent, if not dishonest.” God hath joined the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18 with the belief and baptism of Mark 16:16. Let the reader be the juror, a real honest juror. Are not the Pentecostalists consistent when they attempt to carry on the “signs” program of Mark 16:17 and 18, if this is the Lord’s commission for this age of grace?
If Mark 16:14 to 18 is the Lord’s program for this age, then the Campbellites, working under Mark 16:14 to 18, are right as to Mark 16:16, but not as to Mark 16:17 and 18. The Plymouth Brethren and Baptists, who think their ministry and program is in line with the Lord’s commission and program of Mark 16:14 to 18, are much mistaken, for they neither preach “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”, nor have the signs following.
Now let us consider the teaching of the Campbellites and the Pentecostalists as to “salvation by water”, with several of Paul’s statements. We quote I Corinthians 9:22: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” Romans 9:3: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Galatians 4:19: “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”
Every spiritual, intelligent student of the Scriptures knows that the Apostle Paul ranked first as a “soul winner”. He sacrificed and suffered more than any other apostle or disciple in his desire and endeavor to bring men and women to Christ for salvation. Note his claim in I Corinthians 15:10. He agonized for them. And yet he said, “I thank God I baptized none of you except . . .” (a few). I Corinthians 1:14. Remember. this statement is in the same Epistle in which Paul wrote, “I am become all things to all men that I might win some.”
Now paraphrase Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 1:14 to 16 to harmonize with the teaching of preachers who teach water as a factor in salvation, “I thank God I performed for very few of you that ceremony that would have been a factor in your salvation.” Then he added a statement which had to do not only with the city of Corinth but with Paul’s ministry in general. He said: “Christ sent me not to baptize.” Note Paul’s testimony in I Timothy 1:12 and 16. Christ Jesus put Paul in the ministry and chose him to be a pattern for believers. Christ Jesus put Peter in the ministry and was mighty in him to the apostleship of the circumcision. Christ sent Peter to baptize. Matthew 28:19 and 20. Hear Paul’s testimony, “Christ sent me not to baptize.” In Philippians 1:10, the Holy Spirit, according to the Greek, instructs members of Christ’s Body to “test things that differ”.
SIGNS AMONG THE CORINTHIANS
Now let us note several facts concerning the saints to whom Paul wrote I Corinthians. “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” I Corinthians 3:1 to 3.
“I speak to your shame.” I Corinthians 6:5.
“Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” I Corinthians 6:8. Here we learn that these Corinthian saints were not “super-spiritual”. They were not like the very faithful saints whom Paul addressed in his Epistle to the Ephesians. The Corinthians were carnal. Paul could not teach them deep spiritual truths. They were able to take only the milk of the Word. But in I Corinthians 12:8 to 11 we learn that among those carnal Corinthians there was no lack of signs. Note first Acts 18:8: “. . . many of the Corinthians hearing believed and were baptized.” They believed and were baptized. They became saints. Then those saints exercised their sign gifts: “to one the gifts of healing,” “to another the discerning of spirits,” “to another the working of miracles,” “to another divers kinds of tongues,” “to another the interpretation of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:9 and 10.
Perhaps the Corinthian saints were not given these sign gifts in fulfillment of Mark 16:17 and 18; but the fact is, that these different signs were found among them. These sign gifts are not found among Christians today, except in the counterfeit. Then, of course, comes the question, why? Why were those supernatural demonstrations found among those carnal saints in Corinth when not one of these sign gifts is exercised by the most gifted, spiritual Bible teacher of this generation?
Any absolute proof that the sign gifts have been found among any group of God’s people since the death of the apostles is lacking. We may not agree with the belief of Dr. C. I. Scofield but he seems to agree with the Bible. He believed “the sign gifts of I Corinthians 12 were operative only during the “Acts” period”. Any student of Paul’s Epistles, written after the period covered by the Book of Acts, will learn that there is no reference to “tongues”, “signs” and “miracles” in those Epistles. We note in Acts 19:11 and 12, that Paul himself accomplished miraculous physical healings, whereas, in I Timothy 5:23, he instructed Timothy, a faithful saint, to use a physical remedy for his sickness. Moreover, Paul wrote in II Timothy 4:20. “Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick”. Why? Why didn’t he heal Trophimus? Why didn’t someone heal Paul? God’s Divine healing for today is set forth in Philippians 2:27.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.