by Epiphany Bible Students

No. 23

My dear Brethren: Grace and peace through our Beloved Master!

In accordance with past promise, we now offer a review of the article in the last May Present Truth entitled The Baptism of John Versus Christian Baptism.

By way of introduction, it should be noted that much of what follows is contro­versial in character; but this fact should not detract in appeal to all who call upon the name of the Lord in sincerity and in Truth. Controversy is the soul of progress ­just as necessity is the mother of invention; and Brother Johnson has ably interpreted the “Journeying” of the Israelites in Numbers 10 to type the Gospel Age controversies of spiritual Israel. And it has been during the controversies that the largest growth in grace, knowledge amd scope of service have came to God's people – the fully Faith­ful thus developing in every good word and work, while the unfaithful and Measurably Faithful have usually had taken from them that which they had (Matt. 25:29).  This is so well illustrated in the type of David and Saul, David typing the Faithful church militant during the Gospel Age, with Saul typing the Measurably Faithful, especially in their leaders. At every occasion during their altercations David increased in fa­vor with God and man; whereas, just the reverse was the experience of Saul. There­fore, none of the Faithful should shrink from controversy.

And by this writing on Baptism now appearing in the P.T., we accept it as the op­portune time to reveal to one and all that it was on this Doctrine that R. G. Jolly conducted a vicious and extensive “whispering campaign” against this writer during the years 1953‑54 and 1955 to the effect we were “out of harmony with Brother Russell and Brother Johnson on the doctrine of Baptism”, although to those who reported the mat­ter to us he had steadfastly refused to state specifically what the “out of harmony” was. As Brother Johnson has so well stated: “Half truths are more misleading than whole errors”; and this incident is an excellent illustration. Our “out of harmony” had to do with the twelve men in Acts 19:1‑6 – were they Jews or Gentiles? Brother Russell and Brother Johnson both inclined to the view that they were Gentiles; where­as, we accept the position that there is no Scripture or group of Scriptures to prove the point either way. We repeatedly presented this contention to R. G. Jolly; and he just as often failed to produce any answer except –  “You are out of harmony with Brother Russell and Brother Johnson.” Be it distinctly noted that whether or not the writer of this present article is correct, it makes not one whit of difference in our present view of baptism; that it relates only to historical incident, its chief value to us today being its typical applicatian to events at the end of the Age; is not vi­tal to a present harmonious understanding of the ten strings of the Harp of God; and each one in God's Household should have the privilege of his own opinion on it – “in the spirit of meekness”. Therefore, R. G. Jolly revealed once more his uncleansed and leprous condition when he attempted to murder his brother (1 Jno. 3:12 – See Be­rean Comment) by “whispering” far and wide an inconsequential item – a point he him­self attempted to magnify all out of proportion to its intrinsic worth, with the evil intent of destroying the influence of this writer in the lord's Household. Well, he should have considered the proverb: He who digs a pitfall for another falls oftener therein himself. And we think it opportune to declare here – without reservation – ­that we are in full harmony with both Star Members on everything they have written which finds support in the inspired word. Furthermore, their unsupported opinions should carry great weight and respect, because they were both men of unusual intellect; so we do not lightly set aside anything they have written unless “due time” un­mistakably proves such opinions incorrect.

We now proceed to a Scriptural analysis of John's Baptism – a baptism which John and his disciples, along with the disciples of Jesus, administered to Jews who were cognizant and repentant of sins against the law Covenant. At the outset we offer the premise that there never was two baptisms operative at the same time for the Gos­pel Age Church – excepting, of course, the individual instance of Jesus at Jordan, where He set the example for the Church. Time after time did we ask R. G. Jolly to give one Scriptural instance where John's Baptism was performed on any entrant into the Gospel‑Age Church after the inauguration of Christian baptism in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:48) – and he has never yet produced an example, because he cannot do so!

In the 18th chapter of Acts, vs. 24‑28, there is recorded the activity of Apollos at Ephesus, sometime before Paul's second visit to that city as given in Acts 19. This same Apollos “spoke boldly in the synagogue” – to the Jews; but verse 25 says he “knew only the baptism of John.” This statement leaves a strong hint that there was some­thing wrong with his knowledge of baptism; but he was preaching to the Jews, so why should his teaching be questioned if John's baptism was still all right for them? Then we are informed Aquila and Priscilla, both Jews (See Acts 18:2), “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.” Seemingly, they straightened him out on the subject of baptism, since that is the only doctrine specifically men­tioned regarding his preaching at that time. And, when he was ready to leave Ephesus, verse 27 tells us “the brethren” wished him Godspeed. Is there any logic or sane im­agination that would conclude those “brethren” were Gentiles and dogmatically contend for it, when it clearly and indisputably states he had been laboring with the Jews – the Gentiles not even mentioned, and that he had resided in the home of Jewish brethren during his ministry there? Verse 28 declares “he mightily convinced the Jews” in the next city he visited after leaving Ephesus – not even then is there anything said about any effort on his part toward the Gentiles. Yet, R. G. Jolly contends un­equivocally that the “certain disciples” mentioned in the next verse of Scripture ­Acts 19:1 – could be nothing other than Gentiles. All of this was clearly and re­peatedly explained to R. G. Jolly by this writer; yet he proceeded with his “Whisper­ing campaign” of “out of harmony with Brother Russell and Brother Johnson on the sub­ject of baptism” – and he did this while he was addressing us as “dear brother”! Well, let each one be “fully persuaded in his own mind”!

In this connection, we next condider 1 Pet. 3:21, which epistle was written about the same time as the incident of Acts 19:1‑6. St. Peter addresses his letter to “the strangers scattered” throughout Asia Minor. The Diaglott translates vs. 1 “to the so­journers of the dispersion”; and Brother Russell properly defines those “sojourners” as Jews (See Berean Comment). Apparently, this same group of Jews is referred to in John 7:35 “whither will he go ... unto the dispersed among the Gentiles?” Also, they are probably the same people styled “Greeks” in Acts 6:1, the same being called “Hellen­ists” by the Diaglott – Hellenists being proselytes to Jewry from among the Heathen, as well as some of Jewish ancestry who spoke Greek instead of Hebrew as their lan­guage of common communication. (Incidentally, Historian Kurtz says the men of Acts 19:1‑6 were “probably Hellenist Jews” – although we realize this is not to be accepted as proof that they were such.)  James 1:1 also refers to the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”; and the Diaglott renders this as “those twelve tribes in the dispersion.”

Now, speaking to those Jews, St. Peter compares Baptism to the sojourn of Noah and his family in the ark, during which time they were completely engulfed in water, to the exclusion of all outsiders. Of this St. Peter says: “And immersion, a representation of this, now saves us (not a putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the seeking of a good conscience toward God)” (Dia.). Thus, he is plainly telling those Jews that baptism is “not a putting away of the filth of the flesh” – not forgiveness of sins – not John's Baptism.  Therefore, we contend John's Baptism was not efficacious for those men of Acts 19 – not because they were Gentiles, but because John's baptism was no longer operative for any one at that time to bring them into the Gospel‑Age Church; that is, we must either come to this conclusion, or we have St. Peter contra­dicting St. Paul on the subject of baptism. And, if we must make a choice between the fallible opinion of Brother Russell, or the sure word of the inspired Apostle, we shall always choose the inspired writing of St. Peter.  Of course, as is so often true of the weak and treacherous, R. G. Jolly showed himself to be sadly out of har­mony with Brother Russell and with Brother Johnson in this very incident; because they both repeatedly counselled all to prove their statements by the inspired word. This, too, we often quoted to him; and just as often he ignored our entreaty.

Another case bearing on this subject is that of the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26‑39) – apparently a Jewish proselyte, although there is some conflict of opinion whether or not he was a proselyte in the full meaning of the word, as were those proselytes of Acts 2:10 and 41, and “Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch”, mentioned in Acts 6:5. This Ethi­opian, along with some others, had extricated himself from the quagmire of his Heathen surroundings in a “good and honest heart”; had accepted the Jewish faith with an intel­ligent persuasion and conviction, and had done so with his “shoes on his feet” (Ex. 12:11). Therefore, he was a ready prospect for Christianity once it was explained to him. Now, it should be specifically noted that God viewed him exactly the same as if he had been a Jew native‑born – just as had been the case with “Nicolas, the proselyte of Anti­och.” In the case of Nicolas, it should be marked as an instance of one Gentile‑born who had come into the Christ company while the 70th week of special favor to the Jews was still operative, and is proof that God regarded them exactly the same as though they had been Jewish‑born. In the case of Nicolas, he may have been one of those of Acts 2:41 who submitted to John's Baptism at Pentecost exactly the same as did the native­born Jews – although there is no direct proof of this observation.

But the record offers not the slightest hint that the Ethiopian asked Philip, “What hinders my being immersed?” (Acts 8:36–Dia.), because he was sin‑conscious. Therefore, Philip did not administer John's baptism to him; rather, he gave him ex­actly the same baptism that would apply to any one today – Jew or Gentile, the same baptism which Peter describes as represented by Noah's experience in the ark. And it should be clear, too, that Philip was fully cognizant of the meaning of the two bap­tisms; that he must have made a clear explanation of baptism, or this visitor to Jer­usalem would not have been prompted to ask Philip to administer it to him. Whether this Ethiopian proselyte received the Holy Spirit before or after his baptism we can­not determine; but we do know he did not receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit at any time during the service, because Philip (the Deacon) had not the power to confer those gifts – as Paul had done at Ephesus (Acts 19:6) after those men had received the Christian baptism. And from this procedure with the Ethiopian we offer the conclusion that St. Paul's decision in Acts 19:1‑6 would have been exactly the same whether those twelve man were Jews or Gentiles, because John's baptism was then no longer efficacious for any one as a preclude to induction into the Body of Christ. We have repeatedly asked R. G. Jolly to cite one instance in Scripture where John's baptism was administered after the close of the 70th week, but he has not done so ­because he cannot do so!

Having offered what we hope is a very clear presentation of our position, we now proceed to some of the vagaries of the Baptism article on page 34 of the May P.T. In column 1, page 34 (bottom) it is stated: “Baptism signifies our induction into the Church of the Firstborn.” In our June 1 writing we raised the question of the “quasi‑elect consecrated” with relation to this statement; and we now state it again: Is he contending that his “quasi‑elect consecrated” are a part of the Church of the First­born – or doesn't he recommend immersion for them?

Then, on P. 35, col. 2 (bottom) we have this statement: “We do not understand that any Jews needed a water baptism which would symbolize Immersion into Christ's death.” In the case of the Ethiopian given above, if he is to be regarded as a fully‑accepted proselyte, he would then be viewed the same as a native‑born Jew. By Divine illumination, Philip was instructed to baptize him; so it must have been a proper thing to do. In passing, it should be noted that those “Israelites indeed in whom there was no guile”, and who came into Jesus' company during His earthly min­istry, apparently received no water baptism of any kind – neither Christian nor John's. But after the 70th week had passed, even such would be obliged to practise water im­mersion – just as Gentiles have done all during the Age, in accordance with the ex­ample set before us by Jesus at Jordan.

At the top of page 35, col. 2 we are told “Gentile Christians received the Holy Spirit before symbolic baptism.” While that was true of Cornelius and those present with him, it was certainly not true of all Gentiles. The statement is only a half truth; and, as Brother Johnson has commented: Half truths are more misleading than whole errors. There is absolutely nothing to indicate the Ethiopian received the Holy Spirit before his immersion; and we know of a certainty he did not receive any of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit before or immediately after his immersion, because Philip could not pass those gifts on to others which he himself did have. Then, there are those who sought entrance into the Christ company during the Parousia, but for whom there was not im­mediate crowns. Such practised immersion months before – some of them probably even years before – they received the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the comprehensive truth on this item would be that some Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before immersions and some received it afterward; there is no set rule for it. But the statement under re­view would certainly lead the casual reader to conclude there is a set rule; however, it is only a half‑truth, and – “Half‑truths are more misleading than whole errors.”

As a further case in points let us take another look at Acts 19:1‑6: This is the very reference R. G. Jolly elaborates in the article under review; and it is a direct contradiction of his entire position. He is insistent that those twelve men were Gen­tiles; but verse 5 says “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (the second baptism now for them) – after which “Paul laid his hands upon them, and the Holy Spirit came on them.” Therefore, his own citations set down against his conclusion ­“Gentile Christians received the Holy Spirit before symbolic baptism” – offers a lurid example of the loose and irresponsible thinking of this self‑appointed “Pastor and Teacher”, who is now going to ignore this “sifter” and confine the columns of his paper to “advancing truth”!  And it is this same person who attempted to destroy our influence with his derogatory “whispering compaign” – “Out of Harmony with Brother Rus­sell and Brother Johnson on the doctrine of baptism.”  What think you, does he himself know whereof he speaks in the article under review?  How apropos is the observation of Brother Johnson – Blundering is the natural and usual activity of the Great Com­pany.

In this analysis of Baptism we prediet R. G. Jolly will make haste to “Ignore this sifter” and put all pressure upon his partisan adherents to ignore the subject, too – just as he has done with so many other subjects, and especially so with the 1,000‑yr. reign of Christ. Of course, in all these matters he is folloning the identi­cal footsteps of That Evil Servant, who also found it to his decided political advan­tage to ignore Brother Johnson in the columns of the Watch Tower – although be carried on a vicious “whispering campaign” against him far and wide at every opportunity.

This depraved course was so acutely apparent at the Grand Rapids Convention May 31-­June 1 – where the “Pastor and Teacher” piled falsehood upon falsehood concerning the “errors of this sifter” re clericalism) the 1,000‑yr. reign etc. – but it should be noted he never once referred to his “faulty disc”, but played mainly upon the gen­eralized statement of “Satanic error” – the same being a time‑worn trick of such “per­verters” to overawe “the unstable and the unlearned.” It should be noted, too, that the true Pastors and Teachers did not close their papers to the “pestilence that walk­eth in darkness”; but exerted themselves to the utmost to protect the sheep by a clear presentation of the Truth until the real sifters were definitely and completely put to flight. Of course, all we see now passing before us is simply the final scene of the prophecy – A just man falleth seven times, but he riseth up again. The “seventh fall­ing” has been proceeding since Brother Russell's death, and will continue until a full accomplishment of its work and purpose is witnessed.

It is the hope and prayer of the writer that the foregoing may increase one and all in grace, knowledge and scope of service – to righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.

Sincerely your brother

John J. Hoefle, Pilgrim


Letter of General Interest

My dear Brother:

Love, joy and peace be yours in our dear Jesus' name! Maybe you do not know us, but your letters of interest keep finding us out. It is the Lord's doings – and it is wonderful!

We are just two lonely ones .... in touch with various ones in the Truth. We have managed to find one who has grasped the Truth, who has been searching for years and praying the Lord would send her someone to help her. And it pleased the lord to send us. Isn't that grand? We meet in our own home and are very much blessed by it all. I wish we could get hold of a Berean Comment. I have tried but failed. Well, this is a little about us, then you will know who has written to you.

Now I want to say thank you for your letter this morning. I had it for my breakfast – more satisfying than bread and marmalade – and to read your comments on Psa. 32:8 is just very inspiring. Brother Johnson once remarked that those Youthful Worthies who associated with Priests now are highly privileged.....

Well, dear Brother, we thank you for the few lines on the Memorial and we have been reading Brother Russell's article in the Sixth Volume, ready for our meeting Friday. So we will remember you and ask for your prayers for us also.

May the lord reward you for your loving kindness shown to us. We deeply appre­ciate it. What a joy to know the lord and His people!.... Brother Russell and his life's story was as fascinating to us as all his volumes were, which showed us what his Christian life really was. So now I will close. Be ye steadfast, always abound­ing in the work of the Lord, for as ye know that your labours are not in vain in the Lord.

Bro. and Sr._­­_______ Join me in Christian love.

By His grace, Sister ­­________, England