Here are vital principles new members and old alike desperately need to understand!
SO NOW you've been baptized! But INTO WHAT? Today, most denominational leaders are truly elated over rising church attendance, increased Bible sales, a gradual leaning toward religion to supply the answers in a perplexing, frantic, dizzying, explosive world! People, it seems, are trying to "make their peace with God."
Buying God Off
To many, this final "peace making" is a mere ceremony — a long-delayed and very reluctant surrender of an old and cherished way of life! It is a last-minute and desperate attempt, now that old age is creeping up, and the doubts of the hereafter are beginning to linger more and more, to "get right" with their Creator — to assuage His wrath, to appease His anger, to "buy God off!" REALIZING this factor of human nature, brethren, you need to take real WARNING! Perhaps, without realizing it, some of YOU scattered brethren have been trying to "buy God off!"
The Common Conception
Perhaps the reasoning of some has gone somewhat like this: "I've got to GET RIGHT with God! Mr. Armstrong has about as much truth as anyone I've heard — he's closest to the way I believe — I think I'll just write and ask his representatives to come by, and maybe I can get BAPTIZED!" Some have reasoned, from their own carnal minds, that if they can just GET BAPTIZED, can somehow call a TRUCE with God, can ESCAPE His wrath, all will work out right, somehow! Have YOU felt this way? Many people in this world are "religious independents!" They want to worship God ALONE, they want to do things THEIR way, the way that seems right to THEM! They're SUSPICIOUS of churches, they scoff and ridicule if regular church attendance is mentioned, believing THEY DON'T NEED a local church to attend! They feel they have now been baptized, and REGARDLESS of what anyone says about it, they know they have "made their peace with God." But is this conception TRUE? Is God calling a group of INDEPENDENTS today? Is God operating through scattered, disorganized, disloyal, unfaithful INDEPENDENTS? Or is God working through His CHURCH?
Were You Baptized INTO A CHURCH?
Into WHAT were you baptized — do you know? Perhaps you can't remember the EXACT words that were spoken by the baptizing team that visited your area — perhaps you weren't even baptized by one of our own ordained ministers or their assistants. However, if you WERE, the actual words spoken went something like this: "And now, (then your name), as a result of your repentance of your sins, and your acceptance of Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour, your Master, High Priest and coming King, I now baptize you INTO THE NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, IN THE NAME, and by the authority of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, Amen." Notice it! Event though the wording may vary a little with each individual, the meaning will be there! Notice, it was INTO THE NAME OF THE FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT that you were baptized — NOT into any Church! You were "baptized into Jesus Christ" (Rom. 6:3). You were NOT baptized into a Church. Notice what Peter said, on that Day of Pentecost, A.D. 31, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and YOU SHALL receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). How WERE people put into the true Church? "Then they that gladly received His word were baptized, and the same day THERE WERE ADDED unto them about THREE THOUSAND souls... And the LORD ADDED to the church DAILY such as should be saved" (Acts 2:41-47).
HOW are You ADDED to the Church?
Does this mean that since Peter said NOTHING about "joining a Church of your choice" or about being baptized INTO a Church, YOU ARE NOT A MEMBER OF A CHURCH? Most certainly NOT! You WERE NOT BAPTIZED INTO A CHURCH by WATER! But you WERE, IF you have truly REPENTED of your sins, and met God's prior conditions, BAPTIZED INTO THE CHURCH, nevertheless! Does this sound a little confusing! It isn't — it's SIMPLE — so simple a little child can understand! God says, through Paul, in Romans 8:6-9 "For to be carnally MINDED is death, but to be SPIRITUALLY minded is life and peace, because the carnal mind is ENMITY against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be!" The MIND, then, the VERY NATURE of man must be CHANGED! Water baptism accomplishes NONE of this. Water baptism is merely the symbol for getting rid of your guilty past — FIGURATIVELY WASHING YOUR SINS AWAY. But read on, "But ye are not IN the flesh, but IN THE SPIRIT, IF so be that the Spirit of God dwell IN you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His!" Do you see? Unless we have the Spirit of Christ, the very mind, nature, the ATTITUDE, of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:5) we ARE NONE OF HIS! But Jesus is HEAD OF THE CHURCH! "God gave Him to be the HEAD over all things to the Church, which is HIS BODY... " (Eph. 1:22-23). (See also Eph. 5:23 and Col. 1:18.) To become one of His — we become a MEMBER OF HIS BODY — the Church!
Baptized into The Church
By the receiving of God's Holy Spirit! Peter promised, as inspired by God's Spirit, "... and ye SHALL receive the GIFT of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). God's Spirit is given to them that OBEY His commands (Acts 5:32). Now notice this vital scripture: "FOR BY ONE SPIRIT ARE WE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY"! (I Cor. 12:13.) There it is! By receiving GOD'S PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT AFTER water baptism, by becoming a very CHILD of God, partaking of HIS DIVINE NATURE (I Pet. 1:4), we are BAPTIZED INTO THE VERY CHURCH OF GOD! THIS is the TRUE "baptism of the Spirit." This is what ADDS us to the Church, it is what PLUNGES US INTO, IMMERSES us into the very body of Christ — the Church which does the work of Christ! This is the doing of God — not of man. It is done only when God has perceived the real attitude of heart — whether there is REAL repentance, REAL surrender to God and His laws, REAL offering of the self as a living sacrifice! And so — IF you HAVE received of God's Spirit — by His own Divine MIRACLE, and have been begotten as a very CHILD OF HIS — then YOU HAVE BECOME, BY VIRTUE OF THAT BAPTISM WITH HIS SPIRIT, a MEMBER OF HIS CHURCH!
Your Responsibilities as a Member
As a MEMBER of the Church of God, you have certain definite RESPONSIBILITIES to perform. God REQUIRES the carrying out of these duties and responsibilities. STUDY the entire twelfth chapter of First Corinthians! In it, you will see how God says regardless of WHO you are, WHERE you are — whether housewife, executive, truck driver, pensioner, widow, or WHAT you are — YOU HAVE A DEFINITE JOB TO PERFORM!
Your Job as a Member
Jesus Christ has COMMISSIONED His body to perform a gigantic task of preaching this Gospel of the Kingdom to all the world as a witness. It is an overwhelming, frighteningly huge JOB! It takes many, many laborers to accomplish it! Paul explains how the very smallest, poorest, weakest member of all, the "little toe" of the human body, nevertheless performs a vital, important, necessary PART! YOUR PERSONAL PART in the Church of God is manyfold! God REQUIRES that you pay HIS TITHES, and your own liberal and generous offerings besides, to His headquarters — for the furtherance of the Gospel work. He REQUIRES that you not only spend much time in Bible study, but also especially in constant, earnest, prevailing PRAYER, with FASTING occasionally, for the needs of the work, for other members, for His ministers. He REQUIRES your attendance at His annual Festivals as He makes it possible, for your own spiritual good! He REQUIRES your FAITHFULNESS, your LOYALTY, your PATRIOTISM! Yes, YOU, if you have received of your Heavenly Father's Spirit, are now a full-fledged MEMBER OF HIS CHURCH! As such, He will watch over you, be with you, protect you, help you — as you yield yourself to Him, and let Him USE you! So remember, these are just a few of the BASIC REQUIREMENTS! But Jesus warns, "So likewise ye, when ye shall have done ALL THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE COMMANDED you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants, we have done [only] that which was our duty to do'" (Luke 17:10). Are YOU going BEYOND YOUR DUTY, growing in spiritual power and deeds?