What does a Presbyterian church, that desires to obey the Scriptures, do, when a person, who professes faith in Christ, wants to become a member of the congregation?  The Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 28, Sect. 1 gives the manner of admittance into the church.  Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament ordained by Jesus Christ…for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church.  What if the person has previously been baptized by another “church?”  Should that “baptism” be received?   Should the baptism of the Jehovah Witnesses, or the Mormon church be accepted?  What about that of the Seventh Day Adventist Church?  What about the baptism of the Roman Catholic Church? Or what about the baptism of a liberal Protestant church?  This is a sticky question depending on which religious organization baptized the person.  Some evangelical churches have not even thought of this question and gladly receive a person into membership upon a profession of faith in Christ Jesus.  Others, who are more thoughtful, wrestle with the circumstances of the person’s baptism and then decide whether or not the baptism was Biblical.  What are the Biblical principles which should be considered to determine the question?

The Apostle Paul, we know, was set for the defence of the Gospel.  He contended against Judaizers, who considered circumcision to be necessary before one could be saved and justified in the sight of God.  In Antioch these Judaizers taught that except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, Acts 15:1They desired to mix ceremonies with the Gospel, consequently corrupting it.  Paul writes of them in Gal 1:8,9, But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.  In Phil 1:27-30 Paul exhorts the church to be united with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel against their adversaries, whoever they may be, whether pagans or Judaizers.

The adversaries mentioned in Phil 3 were Judaizers.  Paul warned the Philippians in verses 2 and 3 beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision, for we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.  Paul ridicules these false teachers and issues a very stern warning, using very harsh language, as he did in Gal 1:8,9, but this warning was evidently very necessary!  This passage throws much light on the subject at hand.

The Greek verb, used three times, is an imperative of derision.  In warning the Philippians he holds the Judaizers up in ridicule.  The Greek word, translated beware, means to see, to look to.  It might be translated “Behold the dogs, behold the evil workers, behold the concision.”  Paul warned the Roman church, Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple, 16:17,18.  Satan and his cohorts appear as angels of light; they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  It is the duty of the Christian Church to distinguish between evil workers and good ones.  They are to recognize those who are teaching another gospel, and know that they are accursed of God.  In order to do this they must, themselves, know the true doctrine!   In the Greek the article (the) appears before each noun and is used to point out a well known class of false teachers.

The first title that he gives them is dogs.  In Bible times dogs were not household pets, as they are today.  They were not “man’s best friend,” but wild and ownerless animals.  They were scavengers, prowling the streets, sometimes in packs and would attack and bite the weak and small and, sometimes, even the strong.  In the Hebrew the word translated dog is “celev.”  It described the vilest and most impure sinners.  Moses declares, There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.  Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God for any vow, Deut 23:17,18The Sodomite, the homosexual, was termed a dog, to show God’s utter contempt for his wickedness.  These dogs shall be utterly banished from the heavenly city, Rev 22:15.  They shall suffer eternal damnation!  It is interesting to note the word the Lord Jesus used, when he answered the Syrophenician woman’s request.  He calls her a dog, a Gentile, for that was what the Jews called Gentiles, but He calls her a little dog.  She took the insult the Lord Jesus hurled at her with humility, and answered accordingly, and she received her request.  The word the Lord used was the diminutive of dog – a little dog, a puppy.  We might think of a tiger cub, a cute, playful little creature.  But that cub will grow up to be a dangerous, predatory animal.  The faith of this woman showed her to be a child of God, just as Rahab and Ruth before her!

The second title the Apostle gives these Judaizers is that of evil workers.  Like their father, the devil, they walk about, as a roaring lion, seeking whom they may devour, 1 Pet 5:8.  They labor diligently, but it is for evil, not for good.  They did not merely put forth an opinion, but they labored diligently to propagate and implement their errors.  They were like the Pharisees, who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, they make him twofold more the child of hell than they, Matt 23:15.

Those, who preach a “works salvation,” as the Judiazes did, are to be “marked and avoided.”  This is important.  We, as Paul was, are to be set for the defence of the Gospel.  We are to take heed of those who would pervert it!  The Roman Catholic church in the Council of Trent in opposition to the Biblical doctrine of justification said, “If anyone saith that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ’s sake alone; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema,” (Sess. VI, Can. 12).  So the Roman Catholic Church anathematizes the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone without the works of the law!  In this they curse those who preach the true Gospel.  Paul, after demonstrating that both the Gentiles and the Jews were sinners and did not keep God’s law, concluded, therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin,(Rom 3:20).  He then teaches the true method of justification in verses 21-27, and concludes therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law in verse 28.  Now this is the Gospel and Paul says that anyone preaching contrary to this is anathema!   Who will you believe the Bible or the Council of Trent?

Thirdly, he refers to them as the concisionThis word is not in use today.  The Greek word means to cut upon.  This is a play upon the Greek word translated circumcision.  The root of both words is to cut.  The prefix of the latter means “around.”  This word “to cut around” referred to the sacrament given to Abraham.  Paul, using this play on words, was saying that the Judaizers were just cutting up or mutilating the flesh.  It had no true religious significance in God’s eyes and should not, therefore, in the church’s eyes.  Solomon wrote that the prayers, the sacrifices, and the way of the wicked or unbelievers, even their thoughts, are an abomination in the eyes of God,  Prov 28:9; 15:8,9,26.

Circumcision (Peritome) had been ordained in the Law of Moses and did convey a spiritual significance, distinguishing God’s people Israel in the OT from the pagans. When this spiritual meaning is forgotten, circumcision becomes concision (katatome), a mutilation, a butchering up, a mere cutting away flesh, conveying no spiritual significance or value in itself. Paul says keep watching out for these “butchers”. They taught that outward circumcision of the flesh was necessary to salvation. Tragically these deceivers were themselves deceived.

Paul, then, contrasts these false teachers to those teaching the truth.  For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, Phil 3:3.  We are those who have faith in God, like Abraham, which is a result of being circumcised in the heart.  Moses noted this in Deut 30:6, And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.  Being born again, of course, is the N.T. terminology.  You will note that, as far as what is done to the flesh, there is no difference between the act done by the true and the false teachers, but there is a difference between what they believe, and this does make a difference!  As Paul wrote to the Romans, For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not of the letter; whose praise is not on men, but of God, Rom 2:28,29.  Those who were cutting up the flesh were not true Jews.  They did not have the faith of father Abraham, therefore, their cutting up the flesh was invalid.  It was not circumcism.

Baptism is the New Covenant sign and seal replacing circumcision.  Baptism is pleasing in the eyes of God, when it is done by His faithful Church according to His word.  When present day dogs and evil workers and flesh washers perform the act, it cannot and should not be called Baptism.  God does not accept it!  It is an abomination in His sight!  They are just washing the flesh.

Who are these present day religionists?    Of course none who do not profess the Christian faith can in God’s sight administer Christian baptism.  Christ said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, Jn 14:6.  So no non-Christian imitation of Christian baptism should be accepted.  Secondly, the “baptism” of those who profess to be Christian, but do not confess that the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament are the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, cannot be considered true baptism.  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them, Is 8:20.  Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.  Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar, Prov 30:5,6; see also Deut 4:2, 12:32, Rev 22:18.  Many of the cults fall into this category, who add to God’s word.  Thirdly, the “baptism” of those, who do not believe in the true and living, triune God cannot be considered Christian baptism.  The Lord Jesus, after His resurrection, exhorted the Apostles, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Matt 28:19.  Therefore, non Trinitarians, Jehovah Witnesses, Unitarians, World Wide Church of God, etc. are merely washing the flesh!

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God(Rom 1:1) wrote I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome (Rom 1:16).  The theme of this epistle is the just shall live by faith,1:17.  One thing that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion or philosophy is that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law, Rom 3:28.  In every other religion a man is justified by how he lives, that is, by works.  In chapter 4 of Romans Paul shows that Abraham was justified by faith.  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, verse 3.  This came to pass before he was circumcised, verse 10.  Therefore, no good religious act or good work of any kind enters into the justification of a sinner.  In verses 11 and 12 Paul wrote: And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised, 4:11,12.  When certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved, Paul and Barnabus appealed to the Council at Jerusalem.  The Council concluded with Peter against the Judaizers that it is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they, Acts 15:1,2,11.

The doctrine of justification by faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone is unique among the religions of the world, and is the only true method of justification before an Holy God.  Job asks a question that is timeless.  How should man be just with God, 9:2?  Paul answers the question, now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, Rom 4:4,5.

Now a church that does not believe this doctrine is preaching another gospel!  The Seventh Day Adventist church, for example, teaches the doctrine of “investigative judgment,” where Christ will enter into the heavenly temple to determine “who is worthy” to enter.  This is a works religion!  The Roman Catholic church, which teaches that a person is saved by faith plus works, is teaching “another gospel.”  Their “baptism,” therefore, is a false baptism, and, in reality, no baptism at all.  It is merely washing the flesh.  Jehovah Witnesses, Shepherdites, Federal Visionists, New Perspectives of Paul, Liberal Protestant Churches, etc. are merely washing the flesh!

In Galatians 5:12 Paul again does not spare words writing…Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate (emasculate) themselves (or cut themselves off as when one was made a eunuch)!  Christian churches, take note!