The Wonder of God in Establishing the True Jesus Church in the Face of Uncertainty
Jesus teaches that he who believes and is baptised shall be saved (Mk. 16:16). The essentiality of baptism to salvation is beyond any doubt. It cannot be done away with in the process of salvation. The apostles kept it fully without a slight hinge of compromise – Peter at his advanced age did not forget to remind the believers the irreplaceable role of baptism for one to receive salvation (1 Pet 3:21). It is the prescription given by God to deal with the sins of man (Acts 2:38; 22:16). When sins are forgiven in baptism, one is ushered into the body of Christ.
Since baptism saves, then what constitutes a baptism that saves? It is beyond questioning that faith plays a vital role. However, the faith here is not limited only to believing that Jesus is the Saviour, who alone can save. It must, at the same time, lead one to accept the one baptism that is espoused in the Bible; particularly the Pauline message to the believers in Ephesus (Eph. 4:5). Since there is only one baptism, it means that there is only one correct mode of baptism that God instructs the church to carry out; for God demands exact obedience.
The uniqueness of an efficacious baptism, in relations to its mode, is made manifest by becoming united in the likeness of Christ’s death (bowing head) on the part of the one who receives baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The bowing of the head is the entry point into the death (burial of Jesus), which eventually enables a person to participate in His resurrection (Jn. 19:30; Rm. 6:3-5) by the working of the Spirit. The will to disregard the mode of baptism on account of having faith in God is a blatant denial of God’s way that He has designed and engineered to save.
The claim that two out of the three early workers of the church (True Jesus Church) had not undergone the baptism with head bowed is a fatal hammer blow to the existence of the entire church, if it is not clarified and rebutted. The implications are far greater than we can ever imagine if such a claim is not filtered out in the community of faith:
1. It means that the church has all along been preaching a lie to the believers that head bowed in baptism is a revelation given to the church by the Holy Spirit. This lie has been, and still is being, passed down from one generation to another. If this is true, then the natural consequence is that the words of the early workers cannot be trusted. Their labour for God shall surely be in vain.
2. It means that the doctrine of baptism the True Jesus Church (TJC) practises is not Spirit-inspired. In other words, the pattern of this doctrine is not established by the Holy Spirit. Inevitably, it leads to the conclusion that the mode of baptism she holds onto is without basis. And the concept of bowing head is merely the efforts of some keen individuals piecing verses together in support of the idea.
3. It means that the early phase of the TJC had not strictly followed through what the Lord had given to her, since two of the three early workers did not practise what the church now deems essential for salvation. In a way, such a claim gives the idea that the doctrines of the church are not absolute for salvation; that they are man-made. They are given to change to say it mildly. More seriously, they can be scrapped altogether. This opens up to the view that the church can only be restored to her true self, if she is set free from the restriction of the doctrines that she now holds true.
4. It means that the baptism performs by the TJC is no longer the only baptism that saves. The baptisms performed by other denominational churches can just be equally efficacious. It practically rules out the need to baptise Christians from other denominational churches, especially those who believe in baptism and have been baptised by their churches. The True Jesus Church is only one of the many churches within Christendom. The church that God has established is, therefore, deemed common and marginalised in terms of her work of redemption.
5. It means, most critically, the churches (TJC) that the two workers established are, essentially, not part of the body of Christ, for the baptists themselves have not been saved in the first place. Their sins were not forgiven, since they had not undergone the baptism with their head bowed. The churches they established are, technically, still very much in sin, separated from the grace of God. It goes without argument, in such a situation, all the churches (TJC) of the free world are not purchased by the blood of Jesus. For we all belong to this line of the church’s establishment.
Were the two workers baptised facing downward?
But, in reality, there are numerous records, both external and internal, which have confirmed that the two early workers were baptised facing downward. Most external sources basically have painted the picture that the True Jesus Church always baptises with the recipient’s head facing downward. Whenever the history of the early workers are stated, their baptisms facing downward are almost certainly mentioned. In a way, baptism with head bowed has become, and is, the unique feature of the True Jesus Church, which fully accords with the Bible.
Internally, there are countless accounts of word of mouth and publications, which ascertain that the three early workers were baptised with their head bowed. The former can be heard in many preachers’ seminars. The latter includes the brief introduction to the history of the True Jesus Church written by the USGA (members.tjc.org). There are also many accounts printed by the Taiwan churches. One example is the 30 years’ Commemorative Publication（TJC三十年纪念专刊）. Surely, all these are testimony to the baptisms of the two early workers with head bowed.
The confirmation from the word of God and the Spirit
Head bowed in baptism is an integral part of an efficacious baptism, which is fully substantiated with the word of the Bible. God, being a God of order, would not have gone against His own teachings by tolerating the non-compliance of two of the three early workers for not baptising with head bowed. No such parallel can be found in the New Testament in reality. The work of God, with regards to salvation, is always clear and unambiguous. The baptism in the name of Jesus is one such notable example. It was first being preached by the generation of the apostles (those who had seen the face of Jesus), and continued on to all the generations as chronicled in Acts.
Most importantly, the presence of the Spirit in the work of the end-time true church is a concrete proof to the truth that the TJC preaches. One part of the truth is about God’s revelation to the church concerning the doctrines of salvation, which have their roots in the Bible. This effectively is an unshakable back up to the idea that head bowed in baptism is a revelation from God. It is an explicit testimony to the fact that the church has upheld this practice throughout. Since the Spirit of God has been abiding with the church, it cannot be true that two of the three early workers whose baptisms were not biblical, without being called into questioned by the workers who were present in the early phase of the establishment of the church.
What had really happened and its implications?
Paul Wei, Lin-Shen Chang and Barnabas Chang were the three early workers of the True Jesus Church. They were not the founders of the church. The True Jesus Church was established in the year 1917 by the Holy Spirit. The three workers received the Holy Spirit before the establishment of the church. Paul Wei received the Holy Spirit in the year 1916; Lin-Shen Chang received the Spirit in the year 1910; and Barnabas Chang in 1911. Clearly, the Spirit had been guiding them in establishing the True Jesus Church.
According to history, Paul Wei was instructed by the Holy Spirit to baptise in living water with head facing downward. He was baptised by the Holy Spirit in the year 1917. He was given the revelation to the basic beliefs of the church. Having received the truth from Paul Wei, both Barnabas Chang and Lin-Shen Chang baptised one another in the year 1919. The flashing point here is that some have assumed that these two workers were not baptised by Paul Wei, who was the first to be baptised by the Holy Spirit. It gives rise to the idea that the three early workers were of two groups forming the church of God in the light of their baptisms.
How do we reconcile this seeming discrepancy?
Regardless, the answer can be found in the Bible; in particular during the establishment of the apostolic church. Peter was the first one to receive the full message from Christ concerning the building of the church (Mt. 16:17-18). However, he was not the only person upon whom Christ had entrusted the task of building up the church at the starting phase. The command to preach was given to the apostles (all) at the same time (Mt.28:19; Mk. 16:15), not just to Peter alone. In relation to the work of baptism, Peter, together with the rest of the apostles, was commissioned to baptise those who believed. The first ever baptism performed by the church, after the downpour of the Holy Spirit, could not have been done by one person alone.
Clearly, God had intended to set up a group of people to do the work of building up the church at the very beginning during the time of the apostles. In an identical vein, the three early workers of the True Jesus Church were chosen to set up the church at her initial phase, attesting to the fact that their baptisms were done by the Spirit. Therefore, the uniqueness of their baptisms’ circumstances should not be used as the basis to question, and to doubt, the oneness of the True Jesus Church throughout the world. After so many years of the Spirit’s abidance with the church, this wonderful testimony should never have been a flash point of controversy, insofar as the church holds on to the truth of God. Instead, we all should rejoice and be glad over the miraculous deeds of the Lord in establishing the church.
After the downpour of the Holy Spirit, whoever believed in the gospel preached to them, and would like to have a part in the apostolic church, must be baptised in water by agents from the apostolic line. Examples include the conversions of Paul (Acts 9:18; 22:16) and Cornelius and his family (Acts 11:45ff). Although in both accounts, God had personally revealed the way of salvation to them, their baptisms were done by the apostolic workers. This is what the Lord has prescribed for the expansion of the church.
Likewise, the True Jesus Church has also adopted the same apostolic pattern. After the first group of workers, whom God had chosen, baptising them in unique ways, the church began to spread speedily far and wide. People who later on joined the church were baptised by workers from the True Jesus Church. There has never been one instant, in which the True Jesus Church (by this, we refer to those True Jesus Churches that keep the truth of God) is affiliated to a Christian denominational church.
Reponses to claims designed to divide the church in the absence of historical backup
Let us use the above detrimental claim as an example and assume that there is no sufficient historical evident to prove the claim is wrong.
1. We ask, ‘Were all the early workers in or from Taiwan so ignorant that they did not even address such a life-and-death issue, in the course of building up the church locally and in other parts of the world?’ In fact, some of them actually came from China. Are we all assuming that they did not have the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
2. Can it be true that only an individual, who is feverishly attacking the church now, has access to the historical records of the early phase of the TJC?
3. It is important to listen to some surviving elders or workers who know the history of the church much more and better than any of the workers who come after them. Yet these elders always claim that head bowed in baptism is inspired by God, which the TJC has been adhering to ever since she came into existence.
4. There are many aspects of the establishment of the church that are not recorded down in history. In most cases, the historical records are not all-encompassing. Some details are ignored. This is inevitable. In particular, during the early phase, the True Jesus Church did not have a systematic approach of recording the events that happened in the timeline of her establishment. Otherwise, the church now would have a complete and detailed set of historical chronicles.
5. With this in mind, it is quite clear that even if assumed that historical records about their baptisms are absent, it does not naturally lead to the conclusion that they had not followed through the doctrines of the church. Rather, it should be more of the case that they must have gone through the baptism according to the Bible, since they were chosen to further the work of building up the church of God, at least initially.
Conclusion - The Works and Tricks of Satan At Its Subtlest
Such an unfounded claim jeopardises the favourable position of the TJC to do the work that the Lord has entrusted upon her - to correct all wrong doctrines. To insinuate that there is an inherent problem with the early workers is to mess up the work of the church outwith and, most importantly, the work of internal correction. This is clearly the work of the evil one. It is subtly intended to drive a wedge in the church (TJC) worldwide to further the proponent’s personal ambition. This behaviour is nothing less than bringing people unto man rather than to God, to establish his own empire.
In view of the above mentioned points, we rule out such a claim to be true and authentic, on the ground that the motive of the proponent is not for the good of the church. It is done with the intention to distort her teachings. For the proponent has claimed that the church is hopeless when she adheres to a set of doctrines. This cannot be the work of God. Simply, such a work does not conform to the fruit of the Spirit (Eph. 5:9) – goodness, righteousness and truth. The hidden agenda is to destroy the pattern of the apostles that the church has received. We must, therefore, all the more keep the pattern of the sound word. In this case, the mode of baptism, by counting fully on the Spirit who dwells in us (cf. 2 Tim. 1:14).